LeBron James Tops Wilt Chamberlain On NBA’s All-Time Scoring List

LeBron James stands ready to play in his Lakers uniform.
Harry How / Getty Images

LeBron James just helped the case that basketball enthusiasts make for him being the greatest player of all time by surpassing the legendary Wilt Chamberlain to claim a spot among the top five scorers in NBA history.

NBA.com notes that the 44 points LeBron put up in the Lakers’ 126-117 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in Los Angeles on Wednesday night (November 15) was the most any player has scored in L.A. since Kobe Bryant dropped 60 in his 2016 finale. But the game-high distinction was ultimately overshadowed by the accumulative feat he was recognized for pulling off when with 3:55 remaining in the game, LeBron sunk an and-one free throw shot that brought his career-point total past the 31,419 Chamberlain had amassed throughout 15 years in the league.

The historic bucket would bring the sold-out Staples Center crowd to its feet. Such has more often been the case for fans of the purple and gold than it has for fans of any other pro-basketball organization. As ESPN reports in its coverage of the milestone, LeBron will find himself chasing a trio of former Lakers – in Bryant, Karl Malone, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – providing he remains healthy enough to put Michael Jordan’s 32,292 mark behind him. Seeing how his current total of 31,425 leaves him just 867 points short of His Airness, LeBron keeping his average of 26.4 points per game steady ought to ensure that he effectively does so by some point in late January.

With 387 total points through 14 games this season, LeBron is on pace to score 2,266 – which would outdo the 2,251 he recorded after competing in every single 2017-18 game on the Cleveland Cavaliers calendar. Such totals indicate that the four-time MVP’s scoring has been on the upswing, considering he fell short of 2,000 in each of the three preceding seasons. Thus, there is a strong possibility that LeBron even breezes by Kobe in his first Lakers season, as the 33,691 that the 33-year-old Ohio native is projected to finish with would narrowly eclipse The Black Mamba’s 33,643 for the third most points ever.

After Kobe, it will be a few years before LeBron closes in on Malone’s 35,928 career total – and that would still leave him out of range of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 38,387 points by a couple of seasons. As it stands, LeBron needs 6,962 more points to become scoring king. Keeping in mind that he won’t be playing all 82 games with each coming year that his mid-30’s go wearing his body down. And factoring in the likelihood that his point totals will regress as other stars emerge around him and his game declines, LeBron will just be approaching the all-time mark in the fourth and final year of his $154 million contract.

Thus, after he’s gotten past the question of whether he will eventually take down Kareem, the question becomes with whom he will do it. When concerning LeBron James, history has shown that that would be more than a million dollar question.