Lebron’s Legacy: A Scoring Anomaly
A scorer who doesn’t love to shoot. A scorer who facilitates in the clutch. A scorer who defers to teammates if that is what the defense dictates. A scorer so good at all aspects of the game that people don’t realized how deadly he is. Lebron James will go down as one of the greatest players to ever play the game. His all-around statistics leave him few peers to compare him to. He has more assists than any front court player ever and ranks 21st on the all-time assist list. He already has more rebounds than Hall of Famers like Jordan, Magic, Tom Heinson, and Adrian Dantley and is only about 500 rebounds away from being top 100 of all-time on that list. He is #32 on the all-time steals list ahead of the likes of Larry Bird and Dennis Johnson. With his next 5 blocked shots he will pass Ralph Sampson, Kevin Willis, and Larry Bird on that list where he currently ranks 147 all-time. Lebron has made his mark in virtually every single statistical category and in the process cemented his place as one of the best all-around players ever to lace up the high-tops. He has been so amazing in his all-around performance, that he has sneakily concealed the fact that his greatest legacy will be as one of the greatest scorers ever.
It’s funny how we label players for reasons that serve our purposes for both good and bad. The nonathletic scorer is labelled as “crafty,” the ball-hog has a “scorer’s mentality,” the guy who can’t score is a “defensive specialist.” For Lebron, his label as a great all-around player leads people to forget that he is best at putting the ball in the hoop.
Straight out of high school, Lebron averaged 20.9 PPG. That’s more than other high-school-to-pro scorers currently ahead of him on the all-time scoring list: Kobe (7.6), Moses (18.8), Garnett (10.4), and Nowitzki (8.2). The five active players ahead of LBJ on the scoring list (Kobe, Nowitzki, Duncan, Pierce, and Garnett) are an average of 38 years and 195 days old. Lebron is 31 years and 20 days old. The next two closest players to Lebron on the active scoring list are both “scorers” (remember they are scorers because they don’t do anything else) Vince Carter and Carmelo Anthony. Carter is 39 next week and Melo is experiencing a huge decline after being widely regarded as the most devastating one-on-one scorer in the league for a decade. Melo has his lowest scoring average since his 2nd year in the league at 21 PPG. Despite being labelled as a dominant scorer, Melo (who was drafted the same year Lebron) is more than 4,000 points behind Lebron.
At 28 years and 17 days, Lebron became the youngest player to score 20,000 career points. He accomplished this in his 10th season. Only Wilt, MJ, Oscar, and Kareem scored 20,000 in less than 10 seasons. Lebron topped 25,000 points in fewer games than all but Wilt, MJ, and Kareem. All these guys are known as the greatest scorers of all-time. So why is Lebron not known for his scoring?
If Lebron keeps up his current pace (25.3) and finishes the season with an average of 25 points or greater, it would be the 12th time in his career he would have done so. None of the 18 players ahead of him on the all-time scoring list have had more than 12 25+PPG seasons.
|# of 25 PPG Seasons|
Lebron is also 4th on the all-time points per game list behind only Jordan, Chamberlain, and Baylor and more than 2 point per game more than “scorer” Kobe Bryant. In each of the last 12 seasons he has finished in the top 5 in scoring per game. Only Malone’s run of 13 straight top 5 scoring seasons is better.
Not only did LBJ come into the league more prepared to score at the NBA level than any other high-school-to-pro player ever, but he has maintained an elite level of scoring that has been virtually unprecedented. To be such an amazing all-around player and to find himself in the scoring company of MJ, the Mailman, and Kareem is remarkable. To be able to do it without ever being labeled as a “scorer” is mind-boggling and a real tribute to his complete game.