LeBron James Youngest Ever to Score 20,000 Points in NBA History

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 17, 2013

LeBron James entered Wednesday night's tilt with the Golden State Warriors needing just 18 points to reach the 20,000 career points plateau.

He tallied 13 of them while playing all 12 minutes of the game's opening period, featuring a pair of delectable dunks (one of which came on the back end of a half-court lob from Dwyane Wade).

But the all-important, record-breaking bucket came with 2:46 left in the second quarter on a pull-up jumper from just inside the free-throw line.

At 28 years and 17 days old, he broke Kobe Bryant's previous mark by more than a year (29 years and 122 days). ESPN's Tom Haberstroh diagrammed James' assent up the scoring ranks, comparing his trajectory to that of the game's all-time top five by age:

Couldn't fit it in the column, but here's a graph of LeBron vs. top 5 all-time in scoring by age. twitter.com/tomhaberstroh/…

— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) January 16, 2013

James has already entrenched himself in the discussion of the greatest players to ever play the game. And he's still in the midst of perhaps the greatest calendar basketball year of all time.

In just the past 12 months, James has added another MVP (already the third of his career) to his mantle, secured his first NBA championship and NBA Finals MVP, tallied the first ever triple-double by a U.S. player in the Olympics, and won his second Olympic gold medal.

But, as his already gaudy, record-breaking resume continues to grow, the question becomes, where will it end?

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Bleacher Report NBA minds Ethan Sherwood Strauss and Will Leivenberg debate whether or not the King can actually eclipse Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's career scoring record of 38,387 points.

This was supposed to happen. At least that's what the salivating scouts said when he was dominating the Ohio high school basketball scene just a decade ago. Crowned "King James" long before he first stepped foot on the NBA hardwood, he somehow made those glowing scouting reports appear as if they'd undersold his hoops acumen.

At just 18 years old, he became the youngest player ever selected with the first overall pick of the NBA draft.

His first NBA regular-season effort resulted in a mind-boggling stat line of  25 points, nine assists, six rebounds and four steals.

In his 69th game as a professional, James scorched the New Jersey Nets for 41 points and 13 assists, becoming the youngest player in league history to eclipse the 40-point mark.

The Cleveland Cavaliers had a basketball prodigy on their hands. And it didn't take long for the NBA (or its record holders) to take notice.

By the conclusion of his rookie campaign (with averages of 20.9 points, 5.9 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game), James was awarded with his first piece of NBA hardware, this in the form of the 2003-04 Rookie of the Year award. At 19 years young, he became the youngest player ever to receive the award.

He also joined Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan as the only rookies in league history to finish with averages better than 20 points, five assists and five rebounds (a feat since matched by Sacramento Kings guard Tyreke Evans).

As impressive as his rookie effort was, James was merely scratching the surface of his potential. And the NBA record books would never be the same.

A 27-point, 11-rebound 10-assist performance against the Portland Trail Blazers on Jan. 19, 2005, afforded the King the title of youngest player in league history to record a tripe-double. By the 2004-05 season's end, he would tally another record-breaking achievement as the youngest player ever awarded All-NBA honors (second team).

The 2005-06 season included four more entries into the record books.

During the regular season, James became the league's youngest ever All-Star Game MVP, the youngest to average at least 30 points per game (a career-high 31.4), and the youngest player named to the All-NBA first team.

When the postseason rolled around, he became the youngest player to tally a triple-double in the playoffs thanks to a 32-point, 11-rebound, 11-assist effort on Apr. 22, 2006 versus the Washington Wizards.

James' most recent achievement is more familiar territory. He holds the youngest-ever record for every thousand-point milestone from 1,000 points through now 20,000.

His 10,000th point (fittingly registered against his most bitter rival, the Boston Celtics) came on Feb. 27, 2007, via a one-handed flush as part of a 26-point night.

What makes his scoring accomplishments even more impressive is that you'd be hard-pressed to find any basketball mind (diehard or casual) who'd first describe James as a "scorer."

In what can only be defined as the NBA's most hyped individual rivalry since the head-to-head battles of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson dominated the basketball world in the '80s, Kevin Durant has emerged as James' biggest adversary.

James struck the first devastating blow, as his Heat outclassed and outwitted Durant's Oklahoma City Thunder in a five-game rout during the 2012 NBA Finals.

While Durant would rather his resume include an NBA championship, Wade says there's one title that the three-time scoring champ might snatch from King James—the same one James added on Wednesday night.

With over 11,000 points coming well before his 25th birthday, Durant's on pace to at least make this an exciting race. But that won't weigh too heavily on James' mind. Scoring is something that comes naturally to the King, but it's not what he's built his career around.

He has point guard vision (he also notched his 5,000th career assist Wednesday night), a post player's footwork and a tight end's body. He's equal parts unstoppable force and immovable object.

And the past two seasons have added yet another title to his growing list of monikers: three-point marksman. After spending the previous six seasons floating between 31.5 and 34.4 percent from the perimeter, James connected on a career-best 36.2 percent from deep in 2011-12, a number he's thus far obliterated in 2012-13 (40.7).

Defenses can't stop him, nor even hope to contain him. And on his rare off nights on the offensive end (he's been held under 20 points just once in his first 36 games this season), he can win games with the kind of suffocating defense that leaves even observers gasping for breath.

Scouts assured us he'd finish his career as one of the game's all-time greats. But he refused to listen.

He's used each and every second of his nine-plus-year career not to throw his name in the discussion, but to remove the others from both consideration and the NBA record books.

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