NBA: How much time does LeBron take to pass Kareem?

NBA: LeBron James article: LeBron James enters his nineteenth season in the league in the third spot on the all-time scorer’s list. Still trailing Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, how soon could James potentially take the top spot on the list?

It once seemed impossible but then again, we should have known it was LeBron James we were talking about.

NBA: LeBron James shaking hands with McGee. Twitter
LeBron James shaking hands with McGee. Twitter

Entering year nineteen in the NBA, James is still among the best three players in the world and arguably is the best of the lot.

With an overflowing trophy cabinet and list of accolades alongside his name, there is one record he remains in hot pursuit of. Currently third on the all-time scorer’s list, James trails Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, with both in reach.

All-time scoring leaders

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (MIL, LAL)38,387
Karl Malone (UTA, LAL)36,928
LeBron James (CLE, MIA, LAL)35,367
Kobe Bryant (LAL)33,643
Michael Jordan (CHI)32,292

James is just 1,561 points behind Malone for the second spot. Posting scoring averages of 25.3 and 25.0 over the last two seasons, LeBron has failed to dip under 25 points a night since his rookie season. If we conservatively predict his average will remain dead on 25, it will take him 62.44 games to pass Malone.

With that in mind, James could miss up to 20 games during the regular season due to injury/load management and still end up in the second spot on the list by the end of the regular season.

As it currently stands, LeBron is 3,020 points behind Kareem in the first place. Based on the above calculation, James would need 120.8 regular-season games to catch Kareem.

Regular season games required to catch Kareem based on scoring average

20.0 ppg22.5 ppg25.0 ppg27.5 ppg
LeBron James151134.2120.8109.8

Even cautious calculations based on LeBron’s career numbers suggest the 2022-23 season is the projected timetable for the top spot on the all-time scoring list to change hands. Of course, health is the real roadblock, with recent seasons proving the superstar Laker is not totally invincible.

With 50,055 regular season and 11,035 postseason minutes already under his belt, the toll on his body has been extreme, with recent injuries to his groin and ankle leaving him on the sideline for extended periods over the last three campaigns. James missed 27 games in each of 2019 and 2021, the most he has missed in a single season across the course of his career.

Year 20 looms as the season to watch when it comes to this historic milestone. Kareem retired after year 20, though, it doesn’t seem like James is slowing down at a rate fast enough to call it a day at the end of the 2023 season.

At this stage, who would rule out 40,000 points for LeBron?