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James hits 30 with the potential for much more

The NBA's all-time scoring mark is well within his grasp.

POSTED: Dec 30, 2014 2:26 PM ET

By John Schuhmann

BY John Schuhmann


Even after a career already full of accomplishments, more greatness may be in store for LeBron James in his 30s.

LeBron James turns 30 years old today. Every birthday is a time for reflection, but when the digit in the ten's place changes, it's more significant.

James has accomplished quite a bit in his 11-plus seasons in the NBA: five trips to The Finals, two championships, three Olympic medals, four MVP awards, two Finals MVP awards and 37 triple-doubles.

His 23,901 career points are more than any other player in NBA history has scored by the age of 30. It's enough to already put him among the top 25 scorers of all time.

Most points scored before 30th birthday
Player Games played Points PPG
LeBron James 871 23,901 27.4
Kobe Bryant 866 21,619 25.0
Wilt Chamberlain 543 21,486 39.6
Michael Jordan 638 20,589 32.3
Carmelo Anthony 790 19,958 25.3
Oscar Robertson 621 18,743 30.2
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 631 18,638 29.5
Shaquille O'Neal 654 18,060 27.6
Kevin Garnett 851 17,337 20.4
Adrian Dantley 657 17,300 26.3

Some notes on the list above ...

• Moses Malone (18,479) and Julius Erving (18,374) would rank eighth and ninth if we counted their points scored in the ABA.

• If Kevin Durant returns from his current injury in the next couple of weeks and stays relatively healthy through the next 3½ seasons, he could rank second on the list (at somewhere between 22,500 and 23,000 points) when he turns 30 in September of 2018.

Greatness just beginning, perhaps

Only 14 of the league's 59 MVP awards have been won by players who had already reached their 30th birthday. Steve Nash (who turned 31 during the 2004-05 season and 32 in '05-06) is the only 30-plus guy to win the award in the last 15 years.

LeBron Lights Up for 61

Watch every bucket from LeBron James' career-high and franchise-record 61 points leading the Heat to victory over the Bobcats.

Of the 64 times a player has scored at least 60 points in a game (like James did this past March), only five have come after that player's 30th birthday. Only twice in the last 45 years (since the days of Wilt Chamberlain) has a 30-plus player scored 60-plus: 30-year-old Tom Chambers in 1990 and 30-year-old Kobe Bryant in 2009.

So you could say that it's all downhill from here. But the all-time greats still manage to remain productive well into their 30s. Just ask John Stockton and Karl Malone.

Malone won two MVPs and scored almost 20,000 points after he turned 30. His 19,941 post-30 points are the most in NBA history and more than half of the total that ranks second all time.

Most points scored after 30th birthday
Player Games played Points PPG
Karl Malone 824 19,941 24.2
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 929 19,749 21.3
Alex English 614 14,749 24.0
Robert Parish 1,064 14,434 13.6
John Havlicek 638 13,787 21.6
Reggie Miller 745 12,812 17.2
Elvin Hayes 721 12,756 17.7
Patrick Ewing 663 12,522 18.9
Hakeem Olajuwon 608 12,465 20.5
Michael Jordan 434 11,703 27.0

Stockton played more games than any guard in NBA history, missing just 22 games over the course of 19 seasons. After his 30th birthday, Stockton dished out 8,606 assists, more than any current player (except Steve Nash) has registered in his entire career.

Most assists after 30th birthday
Player Games played Assists APG
John Stockton 865 8,606 9.9
Steve Nash 699 7,323 10.5
Jason Kidd 751 6,099 8.1
Mark Jackson 675 5,162 7.6
Lenny Wilkens 596 4,777 8.0
via Elias Sports Bureau

Chamberlain grabbed more than 10,000 rebounds after he turned 30, more than 70 percent of the number Kevin Garnett has accumulated in his 20 seasons.

Most rebounds after 30th birthday
Player Games played Rebounds RPG
Wilt Chamberlain 502 10,433 20.8
Robert Parish 1,064 9,323 8.8
Bill Russell 415 8,852 21.3
Dennis Rodman 506 8,317 16.4
Karl Malone 824 7,850 9.5
via Elias Sports Bureau

Stockton and Malone were each 22 years old when they entered the league. Chamberlain was 23. At 18 when he made his debut in 2003, James got a head start. If he has a similarly long career, he could put his name at the top of a lot of lists.

Winners of age

Stockton and Malone made The Finals twice in their 30s, but never won a championship because Michael Jordan got in the way. Four of Jordan's six titles came after he turned 30.

That number is one short of Abdul-Jabbar, a bunch of Celtics, and a couple of Jordan's teammates.

Most championships after 30th birthday
Player Number of championshps
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 5
Bob Cousy 5
Ron Harper 5
Sam Jones 5
Steve Kerr 5
*Jim Loscutoff 5
Bill Russell 5
Robert Horry 4
K.C. Jones 4
Michael Jordan 4
Bill Sharman 4
*Loscutoff played in only 3 of the 5 Finals series the Celtics won after he turned 30.

via Elias Sports Bureau

In terms of championships, James is right where Jordan was at 30 -- although he's played three more seasons than Jordan had.

LeBron's chances at passing Kareem?

Of the top 50 players on the all-time scoring list, 41 are retired. And all together, those 41 guys scored more than 40 percent of their points after they turned 30. To be precise, they scored 58.5 percent of their career points before their 30th birthday, and 41.5 percent afterward.

NBA Action: LeBron's Milestones

LeBron James is the youngest player in league history to score 20,000 points.

If James has scored 58.5 percent of his career points at this point, he has almost 17,000 more points to score. That would take him past Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and make him the first player in NBA history to surpass the 40,000-point mark (assuming Kobe Bryant doesn't play three more seasons after this one).

If you apply the same math to James' assists, he'd have a great chance of cracking the 10,000 mark and landing in the top five of all-time. He'd also have a similar number of rebounds, joining a short list of players under 6-9 who've grabbed 10,000 boards.

James is already one of only 12 players who have totaled 20,000 points, 5,000 rebounds and 5,000 assists. And he has a chance to double all those numbers by the time he's done.

Or ... maybe not

Of course, there's the precautionary tale of Tracy McGrady, who scored 17,289 points before the age of 30 (11 short of putting him on the top-10 list above), but only 1,092 from then on. He suffered a knee injury at the age of 29 and was never the same player.

And while Bryant and Garnett -- two other guys who entered the league out of high school -- are in their 19th and 20th seasons, respectively, they haven't come close to scoring 40 percent of their points after the age of 30. Both of them at this point are around 33 percent.

Obviously, the percentage of a player's points he scored after he turned 30 has something to do with how many years he spent in college, when he wasn't putting as much wear and tear on his body as he did after entering the league. Of those 41 retired players in the top 50, 28 were at least 22 years old when they entered the league. Only three -- Adrian Dantley, Bernard King and Shaquille O'Neal -- were 20. None were younger than 20.

Abdul-Jabbar spent four years in college and retired at 42. Malone spent four years at Louisiana Tech and retired at 40. For James to retire at 40, he will have had to have played 22 seasons, something no NBA player has ever done.

James already has a long career's worth of mileage on his tires. Over the course of his first 11 seasons (2003-04 through '13-14), James (39,993) played about 5,500 more minutes (including postseason) than any other player (Joe Johnson ranked second at 34,500). That's like playing two extra seasons!

As he hits his 30th birthday, James has already passed Magic Johnson (40,783) in career minutes (including postseason) and will pass Larry Bird (41,329) in the next couple of weeks. How's that for a little perspective?

James probably won't hurt his back paving his mom's driveway like Bird did as he's built a lot more like Malone than McGrady. Plus, James has missed just 45 games in his 11-plus seasons. But he's also played more than 1½ times as many NBA minutes as Malone had played (26,697) by the time he turned 30.

In terms of putting up numbers, James has yet to slow down. But you could argue that his defense has suffered over the last couple of seasons. Four straight trips to The Finals could certainly be taking their toll.

Looking forward, looking back

LBJ @ 30

As we get closer to LeBron James' 30th birthday on December 30th, here's an exclusive dig through the LBJ archives, for a unique all-access look back at his career.

No one, not even James himself, knows what lies ahead. Maybe all that mileage will catch up to him, and maybe he's the most durable player we've ever seen.

As he celebrates his 30th birthday, we do know that James has done more than any player in league history at the same age. There's been a lot to reflect on over the last 11½ years.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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