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As LeBron James enters his 17th NBA season, Bleacher Report is taking a look at where the four-time MVP sits in the history books in several statistical categories now, after his projected 2019-20 season and following the remainder of his Hall of Fame career.
Already near the top of the all-time leaderboards in numerous categories, James has passed some of the game’s greatest players, and even more legends are about to be bumped down the rankings. Here’s where the series stands:
Part I: James’ total regular-season and postseason minutes
Part II: James’ total blocks, steals and rebounds
Part III: James’ total assists and turnovers
Part IV: James’ advanced stats, including PER, win shares, VORP and box plus/minus
Part V: James’ total three-pointers and free throws
In Part VI of All the King’s Records, we look at where James could finish his career in total points and field goals.
Points: 2019-20 and Future Projections
When predicting James’ stats both for this season and beyond, I’ve based his numbers on 71 games played per season, as that’s the average amount of time he’s spent on the court over the past five years. That allows him to miss 11 contests per year for injury or rest.
His final career projections for all stats came under the assumption he’ll play five more years, meaning a retirement at age 39 following 21 total seasons.
Perhaps the most interesting NBA record—more than games played, rebounds, assists or even titles themselves—is total points.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has held this record since April 5, 1984, when one of his patented sky hooks pushed him past Wilt Chamberlain for first all time. Since that night, Abdul-Jabbar added 6,966 points before he retired, raising his record mark to 38,387.
To reach that total, it took Abdul-Jabbar 1,560 games over 20 seasons, and he became the first player in NBA history at that time to play for two full decades.
While players like Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan came close, James has the best chance of any to top Abdul-Jabbar.
James already sits No. 4 overall after 16 seasons, and he passed Jordan on the all-time scoring list in March. He now trails only Bryant, Malone and Abdul-Jabbar, in that order.
Like Bryant, James had the advantage of entering the NBA straight out of high school and could begin accumulating stats at age 18. Abdul-Jabbar played three years at UCLA, and Malone spent three at Louisiana Tech.
While James began his career as the focal point and leading scorer for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Bryant only started seven total games during his first two seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, averaging just 11.7 points per game.
Despite this slow start, Bryant still had a chance at passing Abdul-Jabbar for first place before tearing his Achilles in 2013 at age 35. He would go on to play just 107 total games over the next three seasons.
For James, getting this early lead over Bryant in scoring is one thing—maintaining his health is another.
Because of his early entrance and high usage in the NBA, James has consistently been the youngest in history to reach every significant scoring plateau. His latest major milestone was the 30,000-point mark at 33 years and 24 days, passing Bryant by a full year and 80 days.
For now, James doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.
He’s averaged at least 25.3 points per game every season since his second year, including putting up 27.4 points per game for the Lakers last season at age 34. While Anthony Davis could surpass James as the team’s leading scorer, the Lakers will still need James’ offense with no third star and DeMarcus Cousins recently tearing his ACL.
After back-to-back seasons of averaging 25.3 points per game with the Cavaliers from 2014 to 2016, James has increased his average to 27.1 over the past three years. Even with Davis on board, James has proved he can share the spotlight with another big-time scorer, as evidenced by Kyrie Irving‘s 25.2 points per game on a team-high 19.7 shot attempts as his Cavs teammate in 2016-17.
James may not equal his 27.4 points per game from last season with Davis around, but expect a scoring average somewhere near it.
To project his future climb up the leaderboard, we’ll take James’ scoring average over the past five seasons (26.3 points) and multiply it by his 71 estimated games. This would add 1,867 total points per year.
|LeBron James Career Points Projection|
At this rate, James would pass Bryant for third place this coming season, given he’s just 1,100 total points behind him. It would also mean passing Malone in 2021-22 and eventually taking over Abdul-Jabbar’s record during the 2022-23 season.
James should, with good health, become the NBA’s first-ever member of the 40,000-point club.
James’ Current Rank: No. 4 all time
Projected 2019-20 Rank: No. 3 all time
Projected Career Rank: No. 1 all time
Field Goals Made: 2019-20 and Future Projections
Total points and field goals typically go hand-in-hand, but there is some slight variance on the all-time leaderboard.
Instead of sitting in fourth, James currently ranks fifth in total field goals made, behind Abdul-Jabbar, Malone, Chamberlain and Jordan. Bryant is sixth overall if you don’t count ABA stats.
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Field goals, of course, include both two-point and three-point shots, meaning those players who take and make more threes can jump higher up the leaderboard for points while not climbing as quickly in total field goals.
Ever since his rookie season, James has shown the ability to score from nearly everywhere, in nearly every conceivable way.
He’s done a good job of expanding his offensive repertoire, with 38 percent of his 2018-19 shots coming at the rim, 32.1 percent attempted from three feet to the three-point line and 29.9 percent of all shots launched from outside the arc.
Despite his age, James led the NBA in fast-break points per game (5.3), proving his combination of size (6’8″) and strength isn’t going away anytime soon. He’s also shooting more three-pointers than ever, with career-high marks of 2.0 makes and 5.9 attempts per game last season.
Given his growing love for the three ball, James may find it harder to break Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time field-goal record than his overall scoring mark, given the former Milwaukee Buck and Laker made just one three-pointer in his 20 years. James also makes more free throws per game (6.0 to 4.3).
Again, we’ll average James’ field goals per game over the last five years (9.9) and multiply it by his 71 estimated games. This would add an additional 703 field goals per season on his existing 11,838.
|LeBron James Career Field Goals Projection|
Unlike the all-time scoring list, James doesn’t project to beat out Abdul-Jabbar for first place.
While he’ll likely pass Jordan for fourth in 2019-20 and eventually Chamberlain in 2020-21 and Malone in 2021-22, the record for field goals by Abdul-Jabbar should stand.
James’ Current Rank: No. 5 all time
Projected 2019-20 Rank: No. 4 all time
Projected Career Rank: No. 2 all time