LeBron James 40,000 points club

LeBron Reaches 40,000 … And Counting

In the second quarter of L.A.’s Saturday contest against Denver, LeBron James became the charter member of a new club: NBA players that have scored 40,000 points.

He used one of his pet moves, a powerful, rapid spin from the right elbow that resulted in a left-handed layup off glass that lifted the sellout crowd off its collective feet.

As LeBron continues his unprecedented 21st season, he ended up scoring 26 points; it came in a narrow loss, which LeBron couldn’t ignore despite being appreciative of the moment. 

“For me the main thing is always the main thing and that’s to win, so I hate that it happened in defeat,” he allowed. “Bittersweet, but I enjoyed every moment tonight on the floor.”

Nonetheless, LeBron continues to chart unprecedented waters, as he’s already scored more points than the five other players to play a 21stseason managed to, combined. 

“I can't sit here and say (it doesn't mean anything),” said LeBron. “Of course, no one has ever done it. For me to be in this position at this point and time in my career, I think it's pretty cool. Is it at the top of my, you know, things I've done in my career? No. But does it mean something? Of course, absolutely.” 

The NBA’s second-leading scorer that’s still active, Kevin Durant, has 28,372 career points, having entered the NBA four years after LeBron, a difference of 11,645. In other words, Durant would need to score his current average – 27.9 – points in every game for 417 games (about five seasons of 82 games), and that’s if LeBron were to stop scoring immediately.

“To be able to accomplish things in this league, the greatest players to ever play in this league, the NBA, it's been a dream of mine,” James said. “And to hit feats and have milestones throughout my career, they all mean something to me. Absolutely. Obviously, there's a pecking order of which ones are higher than others (laughs), but absolutely, I would be lying to you if I said, 'No it doesn't mean anything.' It absolutely does."

When LeBron passed Kareem for the top spot last season, that number was daunting enough: 38,388. To not only push that total up to 40,000, but not appear to be slowing down in the process scoring, makes it hard to envision what player can take a run at him some day in the future.

“Obviously you have to play the game quite a while, and have some good luck as far as injuries and that nature,” said LeBron when asked if he thinks anybody will break his record. “You have to take care of your body … and then you have to be productive as well. You can’t sit here and say who would it be … but records are always meant to be broken. You can never say never for any record.”

Here's the active scoring list:

1) LeBron James: 40,017 (age 39)
2) Kevin Durant: 28,372 (35)
3) James Harden: 25,628 (34)
4) Russell Westbrook: 25,098 (35)
5) Stephen Curry: 23,254 (35)
6) DeMar DeRozan: 23,002 (34)
7) Chris Paul: 22,074 (38)
8) Damian Lillard: 20,733 (33)
9) Giannis Antetokounmpo: 18,099 (29)
10) Paul George: 17,534 (33)
11) Anthony Davis: 17,289 (30)

Some of the game’s best current scorers are further down the list, but climbing fast:

26) Devin Booker: 14,041 (27)
31) Nikola Jokic: 13,585 (29)
39) Joel Embiid: 11,919 (29)
42) Donovan Mitchell: 11,471 (27)
43) Jayson Tatum: 11,381 (26 on March 3)
48) Luka Doncic: 10,892 (25)

Doncic may have the best chance of any current player to at least threaten LeBron’s mark way down the line, but his 6,962 points through his first four season trailed LeBron’s 8,439 by 2,067. Luka did manage to improve his scoring average from 28.4 in Year 4 to 32.4 in Year 5, and now 34.5 in Year 6, but while he gained on LeBron in terms of average in those seasons, he played 66 games last year, and he’s missed eight games this year with 20 to play. Doncic will reach 11,640 points if he hits his average and plays all 22 remaining Mavs games this season … but LeBron had 12,993 after his sixth season.

“It’s just tough because he’s not finished playing,” said Anthony Davis. “The gap is only going to get bigger and bigger. But any time he plays, it’s gonna be a new milestone every time … As of right now, I don’t see anybody breaking his record.”

Of the even younger players, 22-year-old Anthony Edwards currently has 6,372 points, has stayed largely healthy, but he too is already well behind LeBron’s pace.

This year’s spectacular No. 1 overall pick, Victor Wembanyama, is 20, and is averaging 20.7 points per game as a rookie, which nearly mirrors LeBron’s average of 20.9 as a rookie. But LeBron played 79 games that year – Wemby has played 54 with about 20 to play – and then jumped all the way up to 27.2 ppg as a sophomore. Wemby would not only have to make a significant leap to get on LeBron’s pace, but then stay largely healthy for … 19 more seasons – and counting – after that!

In his first 20 seasons, LeBron average 71 games played per year, and averaged 38.0 minutes per game. This year, he’s played 54 games, with 20 still to play, and should meet or exceed his typical mark. Those 38 minutes, every night, are remarkable in their own right, and will make catching him even more difficult, as not a single NBA player averages 38.0 minutes this season (DeRozan is close, at 37.8, and Doncic second at 37.4).

Some of his teammates, like Austin Reaves, struggle to put what LeBron’s doing into context.

“Later in life, we’ll probably look back and cherish all of these moments, more so than now, because I’m living in the moment,” said Reaves. “But being in the presence of greatness every single day … (seeing him be) the first one in the gym, always getting treatment … being able to be alongside him, pick his mind on the game, life – it’s special. Greatness right in front of all of our eyes.”