The most compelling argument for LeBron James being the GOAT

LeBron James, Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
LeBron James, Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

If you go through the list of NBA career-scoring leaders, you’ll see a few names that might not be familiar unless you watched a lot of basketball in the 70s and 80s. Career numbers are often a measure of longevity more than greatness, so the fact that Karl Malone has more career points than Michael Jordan doesn’t mean he was better.

Likewise, the fact that LeBron James is about to become the league’s all-time scoring leader should not carry much weight in making an argument about his place among the all-time greats. But the fact that LeBron has scored in double figures for 1133 consecutive games through Sunday should mean something.

Lakers: LeBron James has managed to combine scoring with longevity.

Of course, that depends on longevity, too: only 67 players have even appeared in 1133 games in NBA history. But consider this: of the top fifty scorers in the NBA this season (through Monday), only twelve had reached double figures in every game. That means only twelve players have a streak that even approaches fifty games!

Of those twelve, only James, Luca Doncic, Joel Embiid, and Kevin Durant made it through all of last season without failing to reach double figures in a game. And only James and Doncic have reached double figures in every game since the start of the 2019-20 season. In fact, Doncic has the second-longest current streak at 210 games. That means he is only 11+ years away from catching LeBron.

There’s a reason this is so hard. Guys turn an ankle in the first quarter.  They get into foul trouble. Or maybe they just had a lousy night. After all, there are 82 games on the schedule, and most of them are against really good players. In LeBron’s case, there’s the added obstacle of being 38 years old.

There’s also the ironic fact that for much of his career, LeBron hasn’t been considered a pure scorer. Early in his career, he was more often compared to Magic Johnson than to Michael Jordan or other great scorers. The fact that he is about to break the all-time scoring record while doing so many other things well might be his best argument for GOAT status.

But if you just want to talk raw numbers, consider this: according to StatMuse, only seventeen players in NBA history have compiled 20,000 points, 5,000 rebounds, and 5,000 assists in their careers. If James plays next season, he will likely exceed 40,000 points, which means he will have doubled all of those milestones.

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Not to mention being one of only 25 players with 1,000 blocks and 1,000 steals in their career. There may be players with more rings or players who were more unstoppable, but for raw numbers, there has never been an NBA career like LeBron’s.