Another day, another historic milestone for LeBron James. In Thursday’s marquee clash between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets, James needed 15 points to reach 35,000 for his career. He did so, and that put him in elite company in terms of both skill and longevity. Only two other players in NBA history have scored 35,000 points, and both also wore Lakers uniforms: Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
The play itself came in the second quarter. James went to the free-throw line down double-digits against the Nets and sank his first attempt to reach 15 on the night. That got him past the 35,000 threshold.
James, now only 36, is the youngest of the three players to reach 35,000 points, but he still has ground to make up if he plans to catch them on the all-time leaderboard. Malone is in second place at 36,928 points, and Abdul-Jabbar leads all scorers in NBA history with 38,387 points. At his current career pace of 27 points per game, it would take James another 72 games to reach Malone. He would therefore be expected to pass him at some point next season. On that pace, he would need roughly 126 games to reach Abdul-Jabbar. That would likely happen early in the 2022-23 season, assuming he doesn’t slow down.
But James is still in his prime, and all current indications suggest that he at least plans to play through the 2023-24 season, when his son, Bronny James, is expected to begin his NBA career. At his current rate, he would need roughly 186 games to become the NBA’s first 40,000-point scorer, a goal that seems entirely attainable. When it’s all said and done, James is almost certain to be the most prolific scorer in league history. Today, it’s 35,000 points. By then, it will be a number we never could have fathomed before LeBron’s career began.