LeBron James, who recently turned 33, continues to craft a remarkable NBA legacy.
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LeBron James turned 33 Saturday and continues to climb the NBA's all-time leaderboards. Realistically, where do you see James finishing in all-time points and assists?
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Steve Aschburner: No. 3 and No. 7.
The keys to James’ continued climb up the stats heaps will be his appearances and his minutes, which figure to flatten out or go down a bit as his totals go up. He is about 7,000 points behind No. 2 Karl Malone (36,928) and about 2,000 assists shy of No. 6 Oscar Robertson (9,887), with sizable gaps before Kobe Bryant and Isiah Thomas respectively at the No. 3 and No. 7 spots. So that’s where I seem him landing before moving on to chase down NBA Franchise Owners in their various statistical categories.
It's a tricky question because nobody's sure how much longer LeBron intends to play (three more years at a high level is my guess because Father Time is undefeated). And we're not sure where he'll play after this season, which will also affect his role going forward. And yet: My guess is he'll finish higher on the scoring charts, naturally, maybe ahead of Kobe Bryant at No. 3 and in assists, either just above or just below Oscar Robertson, who sits at the No. 6 spot.
That will juice the argument that LeBron is the best talent we've ever seen, while Michael Jordan is the best all-around (player, winner).
Given how well he's playing at the age of 33, it's hard to guess how many more years he'll play or if he'll ever miss more than just a few games to injury. But my best guess is No. 2 in scoring (in the 37,000 range) and No. 3 in assists (between 10 and 11,000).
He has swapped out some of his mid-range shots for threes and is shooting those better, so he doesn't have to attack quite as much to stay in the 25-28 points-per-game range. Also, the Heat figured out how to best complement him (with shooting), the Cavs followed suit, and whatever team(s) he plays for going forward will know the same. So even if his scoring slows down, the assists will be there.
If he cared about such things, it would be fun to watch LeBron try to catch Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for No. 1 on the scoring list. He'd have to play at this level until LeBron Jr. made it to the league and he'd also have to continue to hone that 3-point stroke. But realistically, he could catch and pass Kobe Bryant for No. 3 and scare Karl Malone at No. 2
, provided he avoids significant injury and finishes his career as the centerpiece of whatever team(s) he plays for. The top five of the all-time assists list is going to be tough
, even for a passer/facilitator as gifted as LeBron has always been. But just being the same stratosphere as Magic Johnson (No. 5), Oscar Robertson (No. 6), Isiah Thomas (No. 7) and Gary Payton (No. 8) puts LeBron in unbelievable company. His ability to master so many different facets of the game is what will set him apart from so many of the other all-time greats. LeBron's greatest accomplishment will be finishing in the top 10 on both lists and being the only man to do so.