Going into his highly-anticipated matchup in Madison Square Garden tonight, we are a matter of games away from Kareem Abdul-Jabaar losing the record he has held since 1989, as LeBron James stands just 117 points away from the all-time record.
And despite playing at such a high usage percentage in his age-38 season, he continues to play at a top-tier level, especially as the record becomes closer.
In his last 13 games, James is averaging 35.2 points per game on 52% shooting, 34% from behind the arc.
Even without this recent stretch, James has been on pace to surpass Kareem’s record with 150 fewer games played.
But, how much of his scoring came due to the era of the league James played in?
If you inflate his stats compared to the league averages over Kareem’s career (including the loss of the three-point line for half of James’ career), James would hypothetically have averaged 27.6 points per game over his career.
Over his career games played of 1,408 (when he is currently on pace to surpass the record) this per-game average would give him 38,737 career points.
Even though LeBron is shooting more threes than he ever has in his career, the loss of the three-point line would not impact him much in my equation, especially considering an increase in pace of almost 10%, and free throws being nearly 25% more than it is in today’s game.
For an average player of today’s era, the loss of the three-point line would be detrimental.
However, LeBron’s effectiveness inside the arc and sustained usage percentage allows him to still produce even in some eras where his threes were slashed in half, or even in Kareem’s era where the three-point shot was eliminated entirely.
This also goes hand in hand with his abilities to fill the stat sheet in rebounds and assists, which would also increase hypothetically in another era, since the pace of today’s game is slower than it was when Abdul-Jabaar shined.
So, while the popular argument to have is to compare how former great players would play in today’s league, LeBron is one of the best examples of a player who could realistically shine in any era.
The real question will be once the chase for history is over the James, as reality will come back to the forefront in the realization that this Lakers team may fall short of the play-in game.