Here's when LeBron James might pass Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in career NBA points
Based upon these projections, it's likely James ends up the NBA's all-time leading scorer
LeBron James has topped Michael Jordan. In career points, at least.
While the Los Angeles Lakers continued their downward spiral following their 115-99 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night, their failed playoff push was overshadowed by James' tremendous accomplishment in moving past his role model and arguably the GOAT for fourth on the NBA's all-time scoring list.
After scoring 31 points in the loss, James finished the night with 32,311 career points -- 19 more than Jordan's 32,292.
Since James has now surpassed Jordan on the all-time scoring list -- something that cannot be debated -- let's take a look at when LeBron will surpass his next targets on the NBA's all-time scoring list -- Kobe Bryant at No. 3, Karl Malone at No. 2 and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at No. 1.
When will he get there? We took James' current pace of 27.1 points per game and ran it through the last 17 games of this season, then projected ahead. To keep the estimates humble, in case the Lakers bring in reinforcements that change LeBron's role, we then projected him at 20 points per game for all games after that. Here's a look at when James might reach his next three scoring milestones, and his age at the time he'd do it.
Projected date (age)
Jan. 2020 (35)
Feb. 2022 (37)
Jan. 2023 (38)
As you can see based upon those projections, they're all realistically attainable for James -- assuming he wants to play that long. We already know he made a four-year commitment to the Lakers before the 2018-19 season, which should put him in position to at least pass Malone before his current contract is up. If James chooses to play beyond that -- whether that's in Los Angeles or elsewhere -- he will be in position to pass Abdul-Jabbar.
These aren't perfect projections. For one, we can assume that even though James will slow down, that he will probably average more than 20.0 points per game in his last seasons in the league. However, we can also assume that he won't be playing 82-game seasons for the duration of his career.
When considering James' durability over his career and his desire for his career to intertwine with his son's own career -- LeBron James Jr. will be eligible for the NBA Draft as soon as 2023 -- it seems likely James will end his career as the NBA's all-time scoring leader.
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