For the first time since 1984, the NBA has a new scoring champion. LeBron James officially passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the record books on Tuesday. In his 20th season, James is averaging a robust 30 points per night. For his career, James has a 27.2 points per game scoring average, and it took him 1,410 games to pass Kareem for the all-time scoring mark. And if you’re a sicko who can’t appreciate the present, your first question after LeBron’s incredible achievement is: Who will break the record next?
We’ll take a look at some of the game’s biggest names (and best scorers), but first, we need to establish where James will finish points-wise. At this moment, we’re not quite sure how much longer LeBron will play. And somehow, in the last two seasons, he’s averaging more points than his career average despite being on the wrong side of 35, with his age-40 season fast approaching.
From the start of the 2020 season through the day he broke the record, James has played in a little over 69% of the Lakers’ regular-season games. We’ll use this as our baseline assumption for how many appearances LeBron will make in a season for the rest of his career, including the remainder of this one. James is signed through next 2024, and has a player option for the ‘24–25 season, during which he will turn 40. While LeBron has flirted with the idea of playing much longer—perhaps until 45, like Tom Brady—for the purposes of this exercise, let’s assume James plays through his age-41 season. That gives him a chance to play with his son, Bronny, while also making a guess LeBron will walk away while he’s still at an All-Star level instead of joining a new squad as some kind of super role player.
So let’s say James plays in 69% of the Lakers’ 27 remaining games after Feb. 7. That would give him roughly 19 more games in 2023. Because LeBron has been healthier this year and the Lakers are in the playoff hunt, let’s be generous and say he plays in 21 games down the stretch. If James maintains his current scoring average, that means he will add roughly 630 points the rest of this year.
Now for his last three hypothetical years, 69% of 246 (82 times three) rounds up to about 170 games. Factoring in a little decline from this year, we’ll say James averages his career mark of 27.2 for those 170. That adds another 4,624 points to LeBron’s total by the time of his fake retirement. So adding the 5,254 points we estimate James will score from post-Feb. 7 through 2026, we get a total of 43,644.
Stephen Curry currently has 21,183 points, and a career scoring average of 24.5 points per game. At that pace, he would need to play 917 more games to catch our hypothetical version of LeBron. If he played 82 games a year, it would still take him over 11 seasons to catch James. That would take Curry into his age-47 season, and that’s if he doesn’t miss any games. Even if Steph averaged 30 a night, it would still take him into a 10th season playing all 82 to catch James.
Kevin Durant currently has 26,684 points and a career scoring average of 27.3 points per game. At that pace, he would need to play 622 more games to catch our hypothetical version of LeBron. If Durant—who hasn’t had a healthy season since 2019—played 82 games a year, it would still take him over seven seasons to catch James. Durant would have to play every game until his age-42 season to catch James. If Durant plays only 60 games a year, it would take him over 10 seasons, or into his age-45 season to catch LeBron.
Luka Doncic currently has 8,531 points and a career scoring average of 27.4 points per game. Through the first five seasons of his career, he’s played in roughly 85% of his team’s games, which equates to roughly 70 games a season. At a 27.4 point pace, Doncic would need to play 1,282 more games to catch James. If he plays 70 games a season, it would take Luka over 18 seasons to catch LeBron. That means Doncic would have to play until his age-42 season to catch James.
If Victor Wembenyama has a 25.0 career scoring average—which would be 11th all-time and higher than Kobe Bryant’s, it would take him 1,746 games to catch our hypothetical version of LeBron. If Wembenyama plays literally every regular season game—all 82 every year—it would still take him over 21 seasons to match James. Ironman Wemby would have to play until his age-41 season to catch LeBron—and that’s if he scores 25 a night and never misses a game. Good luck.