LeBron James closing in on 40,000 career points: Will anyone else ever score that many?

Every regular-season game LeBron James has played in the past 13 months has brought a new benchmark.

Each point he has scored since breaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s NBA all-time career points record on Feb. 7, 2023 is a career point never before reached.

Now, he is on the verge of 40,000 career points – just 40 shy of the mark after he went off for 34 in Wednesday’s comeback victory against the Los Angeles Clippers.

This eye-popping number spurs two questions: How many points will James finish his career with? Is another player capable of reaching 40,000 points?

When asked at All-Star weekend how many seasons he had left, James, 39, didn’t have a definitive answer, but said, “I know it’s not that many.”

He’s on pace this season to play 71 games (which would be the most he has played since 2017-18), score about 1,800 points and head into 2024-25 with about 40,500 career points. Playing 60 games a season for the next two seasons and scoring 23 points per game, James would surpass 43,000 points.

Let’s take a look at other players who have a chance to pass Abdul-Jabbar for No. 2 on the all-time scoring list and players who could top 30,000 career points and make a run at 40,000:

Kevin Durant, Phoenix Suns

Headed into Thursday’s game against Houston, Durant has 28,318 points and will probably hit 30,000 next season. He is one of the game’s most talented scorers and remains so at 35 years old, averaging 28 points on 53% shooting from the field this season. Five years ago Durant was scoring around 1,800 points a season. It seemed likely he would pass Abdul-Jabbar’s 38,387 points and even make a run at James. But the Achilles injury he sustained in the 2019 Finals forced him to miss all of 2019-20. He played in just 35 games in 2020-21, 55 in 2021-22 and 47 games last season. Injuries have prevented Durant, who is approaching No. 8 on the all-time points list, from scoring a lot more.

Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

Earlier this season, Doncic became the sixth-youngest and seventh-fastest player to score 10,000 career points. Just 25 years old and in his sixth season, he has 10,855 career points after Wednesday’s game against Toronto. He is averaging a career-high and league-best 34.4 points and is shooting career-highs on 3s and from the free throw line. There’s no doubt Doncic is a scoring phenom (he’s also a wonderful passer) and has a career average of 28.5 points. How long can he keep scoring at least 30 a game and will his heavy workload eventually wear on him? He hasn’t played more than 72 games in a season and that was his rookie year. As prolific a scorer as Doncic is, consider the task in front of him just to get to 38,000 points: Playing in 66 games each season while scoring 30 points a game for the next 13 seasons still doesn’t get Doncic to 38,000. With more games played per season and a 20-year career, he has an outside chance of flirting with 40,000.

Victor Wembanyama, San Antonio Spurs

Wembanyama, the sensation rookie from France, averages 20.6 points and is off to a great start. His scoring average should increase season-by-season, but just like the Doncic example, it requires longevity and greatness for two decades. Averaging 28 points while playing 70 games a season for 20 years equals 39,200 points. In that equation, it makes 40,000 points seem almost impossible. And don’t forget, James entered the league at 18 when the age-eligibility rule was different. It’s 19 now with no indication it’s going to change soon.

James Harden, Los Angeles Clippers

Durant and James are the only two active players in the top 20 in all-time points. Harden is No. 22 with 25,600 points after Wednesday’s game against the Lakers. Another prolific scorer, Harden, 34, has a strong chance at 30,000 points, which would make him the ninth player to hit that mark, assuming Durant also gets there. Harden is averaging 17.3 points this season, his lowest since his third year in the league in 2011-12. His days of 25-plus are over but 30,000 makes him a top-10 all-time scorer. But getting to 33,000 and ahead of Michael Jordan’s 32,292, which is No. 5 all-time, illustrates just how difficult it is.

Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors

Like Durant, Curry, 35, is still getting it done at this stage of his career, averaging 27.5 points this season. And also like Durant, Curry had injuries. He played just five games in 2019-20. And for all Curry’s scoring, he’s No. 31 on the all-time list with 23,198 points. If he plays another four seasons and averages 25 points a game in 70 games a season, he will hit 30,000.

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