Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Says He'll 'Cheer' LeBron James If He Breaks His Scoring Record

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IISeptember 14, 2021

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar speaks at the NBA Awards on Monday, June 24, 2019, at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

LeBron James sits just 3,020 points behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the all-time scoring record, and there's a very real possibility the four-time NBA MVP and NBA champion finishes his career No. 1 on that list.

On Tuesday, Abdul-Jabbar spoke with longtime NBA reporter Marc Stein in a one-on-one on Substack. When asked how he'd feel if James passed his scoring mark, Abdul-Jabbar provided the following answer:

"I'm excited to see it happen. I don't see records as personal accomplishments, but more as human achievements. If one person can do something that's never been done, that means we all have a shot at doing it. It's a source of hope and inspiration. Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile back in 1954. Since then, not only have 1,400 runners beaten that time, but the new record is 17 seconds less. We all win when a record is broken and if LeBron breaks mine, I will be right there to cheer him on."

Abdul-Jabbar has held the all-time scoring record since April 5, 1984, when he broke Wilt Chamberlain's mark of 31,419 points. The Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers big man ended his career in 1989 with 38,387 points.

James is third on the all-time scoring list with 35,367 points. Karl Malone is second with 36,928 points.

James, who turns 37 years old in December, is entering his 19th NBA season. He averaged 25.0 points on 51.3 percent shooting in 45 games last year.

James was a legitimate MVP candidate in mid-March before he suffered a high-ankle sprain when Atlanta Hawks forward Solomon Hill accidentally rolled into the Lakers forward's leg while going for a loose ball. He ended up missing 27 games that season overall.

It's unlikely that James would play a full 82-game season in his 19th NBA campaign. Even if he's injury-free, the Lakers would be wise to rest James here and there, especially in the NBA's first full campaign since 2018-19. James hasn't played an 82-game season since 2017-18, as injuries curtailed his 2018-19 season too.

However, it's realistic to see James surpassing Abdul-Jabbar by the end of the 2022-23 season.

Provided he plays a realistic 70 games per year, he'd finish his hypothetical 20th NBA season as the scoring champion if he averages 21.6 points per game. James' lowest point-per-game figure was during his rookie year when he posted 20.9.

Age and time may catch up to James at some point, but for now, the scoring title is very much in sight. Abdul-Jabbar will be there to cheer him on if so, but for now, James is looking for his fifth NBA title as the Lakers prepare for their Oct. 19 season opener at home versus the Golden State Warriors.