Why Is LeBron James Not Seen as an All-Time Great Scorer?

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Why Is LeBron James Not Seen as an All-Time Great Scorer?


Why Is LeBron James Not Seen as an All-Time Great Scorer?


On October 29, 2003 versus the Sacramento Kings, LeBron James registered his first NBA basket at the 8:56 mark of the first quarter. 15,249 points as a Cavalier, 7,919 points on the Miami Heat,  7,870 additional points scored in Cleveland, and 7,352 points as a Laker later and The Chosen One is now the all-time leading scorer in NBA history with 38,390 career points. 

When James came into the league out of St. Vincent-St. Mary high school, the expectations placed on his shoulders were arguably higher than any player in sports history. At a spry and youthful age of 18 years old, James carried more talent into the NBA than perhaps any player in league history. He was seen as a work of art athlete with the skill and intelligence to be a force like we had never seen before. However, it’s unlikely to think that even the fans and pundits who celebrated LeBron the most pre-draft and into his early NBA years could have seen this coming. 

While LeBron James is the greatest scorer in NBA history on account of the record he broke, it’s unnerving to think that he hasn’t been seen as this legendary scorer throughout his career. When the debate over who the best scorers are in league history is thrown out, the answers are usually Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain, or even Kevin Durant amongst others. Rarely are those who aren’t self proclaimed LeBron James superfans chomping at the bit to label The King as NBA history’s best scorer. Why is this the case given that James is now the league’s all-time leading scorer? 

Well, my best guess would be the reality is LeBron doesn’t score the ball in the same aesthetically pleasing way as Jordan or Kobe did. Both Black Cat and the Black Mamba were similar sized shooting guards who painted the court with ridiculous pull-up jump shots from mid range. Additionally they’re probably the two best isolation scorers in league history and were unstoppable threats to get to the rim in their primes. 

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

LeBron’s style is different from Jordan and Bryant, probably because he possesses a different build altogether. James is bigger and stronger and has more downhill athleticism than both. This led to James primarily punishing teams by driving right by heaps of defenders and becoming the best slasher the game has ever seen. It’s all a game of what LeBron does as a scorer versus how he scores. 

In truth, the numbers support LeBron’s case as the NBA’s greatest scorer. He now holds the all-time scoring record, proving his style, despite not being adored by as many fans, was clearly the most effective in the long run. James is fifth in scoring average, at 27.2 PPG and he’s 0.3 away from cracking the top three. He has the most games of 20 or more points scored and is nearly less than 30 games away from breaking Jordan’s record of most 30 point games in NBA history. 

LeBron has averaged 27 PPG or more in a season 12 times, the most ever again. In the playoffs, James has scored over 7.6k points, over 1,000 more than Jordan who was second. LeBron is also sixth in playoff points per game average at over 28 a game. James is also one of if not the most efficient high volume scorers in league history. He holds a career field goal percentage of over 50%. LeBron has exceeded the 57% true shooting clip 15 times in his career and eclipsed 60% eight times. 

By now you get the point, LeBron James has scored a lot of damn points and done so at a highly efficient rate. It doesn’t matter if James has utilized his athletic gifts to score while Jordan and Bryant do their damage of what people solely label as “skill”. LeBron has produced just as much and in lots of cases more than both of them as scorers. 

The craziest part of James’ greatness is his scoring isn’t his best trait as a basketball player. At the start of his career, fans and media alike marveled at LeBron’s ability to pass the ball. Over his long 20 year career, James has become one of the best playmakers the sport has ever seen, warping the court with mind-bending passes and elevating the play of his teammates no matter the context. 

While it’s arguable that James is a better scorer than passer, the fact that it’s even a debate is staggering. How could a player who’s best trait is his passing, also be the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. Lebron James is how folks. In my opinion, he’s the greatest basketball player of all time and this record is just a cherry on top of his legendary career.  


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