LeBron James Officially Defeats Father Time By Becoming NBA All-Time Leading Scorer
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
— 8 February 2023

LeBron James Officially Defeats Father Time By Becoming NBA All-Time Leading Scorer

— 8 February 2023

There’s an adage in professional sports that states: “Father Time is undefeated.” It speaks to the fact that everyone eventually crumbles to the natural forces of time, and that perhaps the greatest adversary of any athlete is the inescapable spectre of aging. With LeBron James surpassing the legendary Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the title of the NBA’s all-time leading scorer with 38,388 career points at 38 years of age, we find ourselves calling into question the perfect record of Mr Time.

By halftime during the Los Angeles Lakers’ latest match against the Oklahoma City Thunder, King James had already put away 20 out of the 36 points required to claim the honour from his legendary predecessor. By the final minutes of the third quarter, after driving the ball to the glass, all he needed was another two. Then, with just 10.9 seconds left on the clock for Q3, he got it done with a picture-perfect fadeaway jump shot.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar held the title of NBA all-time leading scorer since before LeBron James was even born. Abdul-Jabbar eclipsed the record previously held by Wilt Chamberlain on April 5, 1984, with a trademark skyhook against the Utah Jazz. Many of the game’s greatest players have come and gone since then, but none have been able to challenge Abdul-Jabbar’s 38,387 points. For the longest time, it was unanimously considered one of the many unbreakable records in NBA history. In the words of Chick Hearn, former play-by-play announcer for the Los Angeles Lakers, said when Kareem inked his chapter:

“This man has accomplished something that I don’t believe – and I mean this sincerely – I don’t think this will ever happen again.”

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In his 20th NBA season, LeBron James is still averaging more than 30 points per game on over 50% from the field; he’s scoring the most points per minute of his entire career, logged thousands of games and tens of thousands of minutes on his body, and yet, the man is still out there dominating like he always has. It makes no goddamn sense at all.

His longevity is unrivalled. LeBron James has been great since he first stepped onto an NBA court as an 18-year-old drafted as the first overall pick out of high school. He’s collected every accolade from MVPs to NBA Championships to All-NBA selections to All-Star appearances as if they were freely handed out. He was given impossible expectations as a teenager and managed to exceed them all.

That doesn’t even take into account his stellar playoff record. LeBron James leads pretty much every list when it comes to all-time playoff stats and none of that is even included here. Due to the fact that the playoff format has changed over the years, the “all-time leading points scorer” only takes into account the regular season. James has 7,631 career post-season points in 266 games. That’s more than two seasons’ worth of basketball that we aren’t even discussing.

A future player could score play every single game of an NBA season for a decade, scoring 40 points in each of them, and still be several thousand points away from LeBron James. The regular season points leader isn’t a record that LeBron James ever set out to achieve, but he is on pace to put it far out of reach for generations of players to come.

LeBron James has played in the NBA for such a long time that he’s come up against nine different father-son combinations. Kenyon Martin/KJ Martin, Gary Trent/Gary Trent Jr, Gary Payton/Gary Payton II, Rick Brunson/Jalen Brunson, Glenn Robinson Jr/Glenn Robinson III, Adrian Griffin/Adrian Griffin Jr, Glen Rice/Glen Rice Jr, Jabari Smith/Jabari Smith Jr, and Samaki Walker/Jabari Walker. He isn’t just a generational talent… he’s a multi-generational talent. In just a few short years, LeBron James expects to play alongside his own son LeBron “Bronny” James Jr.

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LeBron James Officially Becomes NBA All-Time Leading Scorer - 38,388 career points
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 07: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar stands on court with LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers after James passed Abdul-Jabbar to become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, surpassing Abdul-Jabbar’s career total of 38,387 points against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Crypto.com Arena on February 07, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Many will attribute LeBron James’ longevity to the era he played in. They’ll cite improvements in sports science, the proliferation of the three-point line, and the lack of physicality in modern basketball. But consider this: how many 38-year-olds do you see doing what LeBron’s doing? He’s the last of his draft class and the average age of an NBA player is currently younger than it ever has been. The 90s involved a more physical game with hand-checking and tough fouls, sure, although it wasn’t any less physically taxing than what you see today. The modern game involves unrelenting pace and space that will generally leave the old guys like LeBron in the dust. This is part of the current debate surrounding the idea of shortening the NBA regular season from 82 games.

LeBron James is not a marker of a trend. Medical advancements and a diligent approach to proper nutrition won’t give you a career like his. It’s the fact that the greatest basketball mind, the most physically gifted athlete, and the hardest-working NBA player… all happened to be the same guy.

Future generations are going to remember LeBron James with by far the most career points of anyone in NBA history, and that won’t even begin to capture half of the nightmare that was coming up against him. If you disregarded every point scored from either a dunk or a three-pointer in LeBron’s career, he still has the 14th most points of all time. That’s more points than either Tim Duncan or Kevin Durant have ever scored.

He’s probably the most complete basketball player to have ever lived. Not the strongest guy or the fastest guy, but faster than the strongest guy and stronger than the fastest guy. He’s a matchup problem for anyone. Furthermore, he’s one of the best passers to play the game, so sending a second defender will only get you so far.

Of course, LeBron James will one day do his last chalk toss, throw his last pass, and perform his last signature tomahawk dunk in transition. That’s a given. But despite the best efforts of Father Time, that day is not coming soon, and it certainly won’t be coming on his terms. LeBron James is simply in a league of his own.

LeBron James career points (as of 8/02/2023): 38,388


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