LeBron James is the best basketball player in the world, and it's not even close.
How's that for your daily dose of obvious statements? If the doctor has prescribed only one every 24 hours, then you can sit back, relax and close your eyes for the rest of the day.
It's also pretty obvious that LeBron has had quite a stellar career, but sometimes we just gloss over a few of his most impressive achievements. There are so many milestones that he hits, so many clubs that he joins and so many highlight-reel plays that some of them don't get enough press.
On the heels of LeBron's 500th consecutive game scoring in double figures, let's take a look at some of the most impressive numbers of the Miami Heat superstar's career.
Affinity for Double Digits
To find the last time LeBron scored nine or fewer points in an NBA game, you have to go back 501 contests, all the way to Jan. 5, 2007. In that game, a 95-86 win over the Milwaukee Bucks, James scored only eight points for the Cleveland Cavaliers, shooting 3-of-13 from the field as Drew Gooden's 31 paced the team.
Since then, it's been nothing but double digits.
Against the Toronto Raptors, the reigning MVP dropped a 35-spot to hit at least 10 in 500 straight games, making him the sixth player in NBA history to hit the milestone. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, via ESPN, here's who he's still chasing:
Obviously that's some pretty stellar company. Joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (represented twice!), Michael Jordan, Karl Malone and Moses Malone is never a bad thing.
By the end of the season, LeBron should pass Kareem (part one) and Moses, and he could sneak by Karl as well if he played every game for the Heat. However, it's more likely that he moves up to No. 3 on the list early in the 2014-15 campaign, so we'll have to wait a while.
At his current pace, LeBron would need to score at least 10 points in every game through the end of the 2017-18 season if he wants to catch MJ. It's doable, but it's by no means a sure thing.
Now, in case you aren't impressed enough by the historical impact he's making with his scoring consistency, look at the current streaks in the NBA just to see how hard it is to rack up such a big number.
How hard it is to put up 500 double-digit scoring nights in a row? Carmelo's current streak is 19. Kobe's at 11.— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) November 6, 2013
Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony are two of the most consistent scorers in basketball, and they're still prone to the occasional single-digit outings. In fact, Kevin Durant is the only player with an active streak who's even remotely close, per Basketball-Reference.
There's quite a drop-off from LeBron to Durant, and then another one from Durant to the rest of the field. Only nine NBA players have active streaks of 25 games or longer, so that should say a lot. Only 10 (DeMar DeRozan gets added) have streaks that top 20 games.
This may seem like an arbitrary milestone, but that doesn't make it any less impressive. Having an off night in the NBA is easy, as is leaving a game early with a minor injury before you make it to double figures.
LeBron just doesn't believe in easy, though.
Four MVPs in MVP Seasons
The list of players who have won at least four MVP trophies is a short and sweet one:
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (6)
- Michael Jordan (5)
- Bill Russell (5)
- Wilt Chamberlain (4)
- LeBron James (4)
Even just looking at that select group of NBA standouts, it's readily apparent that LeBron has already become part of an elite class. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson finished with "only" three MVPs, as did Julius Erving.
Tim Duncan has just two.
It should be impressive enough that LeBron is one of only five players to collect five Maurice Podoloff trophies, putting himself in that 99.9999999th percentile (approximately) among all who have ever suited up on an NBA court.
However, two factors make it all the more impressive.
First, there's the age at which LeBron collected his fourth trophy. He was 28 when he shook David Stern's hand and accepted his prize at the conclusion of the 2012-13 season, and that makes him the youngest to do so. Russell and Kareem were 28 as well, but the others were in their 30s.
Secondly, there's the span of time between the first and fourth awards.
Take a look at how many seasons it took each player to get to MVP No. 4:
LeBron is currently on a streak of unparalleled dominance, especially when you factor in the titles, NBA Finals MVPs and the Olympic gold medal. Only Derrick Rose has been able to keep him from winning five awards in a row, and LeBron is still right in the midst of his prime. Winning No. 5 this year wouldn't be a shock, and neither would collecting a few more in the near future.
If our Miami superstar in question were to emerge victorious this year, it would make him only the fourth player in NBA history to win three in a row. He'd join Russell, Wilt and Bird.
Fine company, indeed.
Speed to his Current Milestones
The totals that LeBron has put up at this early—yes, it's still relatively early—stage of his career are just mind-boggling.
Not only was he the youngest player to hit 10,000 and 20,000 points in a career (faster to the first than Durant, even), but he's one of a select few studs to break past both the 20,000-point and 5,000-assist barrier.
According to The Oklahoman's Darnell Mayberry, Durant reached 10,000 points 34 days after his 24th birthday, and LeBron did so nearly a year earlier. James was 23 years, 59 days old when he topped 10K.
As for 20,000 points, Interbasket.net reports that LeBron was the first to the milestone by more than a year. Kobe Bryant was the second youngest, and only those two, Wilt and Jordan managed to get to 20K before turning 30.
However, it's important to note that there's a difference between youngest and quickest.
While LeBron was the superlative when discussing the former, the same isn't true for the latter. Wilt, Jordan, Oscar Robertson, Kareem, Elgin Baylor, Allen Iverson and Jerry West all managed to hit the milestone in fewer career games. It's not like there's any shame in being No. 8 on that impressive list of scorers, though.
That's especially true when scoring isn't even his primary skill.
LeBron lead MIA in pts, rebs & asts last night. It’s the 123rd time he led his team in those cats in a gm – most among active players #Elias— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) November 6, 2013
As impressive as that stat from Hoopsworld's Tommy Beer may be, I'm going to focus on the scoring and distributing aspects.
Basketball-Reference shows us that in NBA history, only 13 players have topped both 20,000 points and 5,000 assists. So, let's break down how many seasons it took each member of the list to gain entry into that exclusive club:
- Oscar Robertson: Nine seasons, 30 years old
- LeBron James: 10 seasons, 28 years old
- Allen Iverson: 12 seasons, 32 years old
- Jerry West: 12 seasons, 33 years old
- Larry Bird: 12 seasons, 34 years old
- John Havlicek: 13 seasons, 34 years old
- Michael Jordan: 13 seasons, 34 years old
- Clyde Drexler: 14 seasons, 34 years old
- Kobe Bryant: 15 seasons, 32 years old
- Gary Payton: 15 seasons, 36 years old
- Kevin Garnett: 17 seasons, 35 years old
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 17 seasons, 38 years old
- Karl Malone: 18 seasons, 39 years old
LeBron didn't get to the club as quickly as Mr. Triple-Double himself, but he was the only player to gain entry before turning 30. And that in itself is impressive, as that's a hell of a lot of points and assists to rack up at the professional level.
But among those players, LeBron has also distinguished himself further.
Only MJ boasts a higher career player efficiency rating, and James has one of the most well-rounded statistical outputs of the bunch. By the end of his career, he'll be in a club all by himself if you factor in rebounds, steals and blocks as well.
He's already one of only eight players with 20,000 points, 5,000 assists, 1,000 steals and 500 blocks. And it's not like his career is anywhere close to finished.
Improvement Shooting the Ball
Plus, he's not done improving.
LeBron enters each and every season as a better basketball player, and that's made him an increasingly dangerous scorer as his career has progressed. Early on, he didn't boast much of a jumper, and that was a clear flaw in his game, one that opponents constantly homed in on.
Not anymore. LeBron has developed into one of the best jump-shooters in basketball now, and he can destroy an opponent from the perimeter just as easily as he can with his physical bursts to the basket.
Take a look at how his percentages have climbed over the last six seasons of his career:
How can you look at that and not be impressed?
Sure, the free-throw shooting still needs some work, but LeBron is currently making a career-high 80.6 percent of his attempts. He's also made half of his three-pointers while taking 3.6 per game, which is more than he's ever shot since joining the Heat.
Scary as it may be, the reigning MVP is only getting better. And that means that a few years down the road, we'll be dealing with a whole new set of numbers to represent his biggest career achievements.
The sky is the limit.