Once LeBron James joined the Los Angeles Lakers in the summer of 2018, everyone realized a certain accolade would happen that would bring a smile to every Lakers fan in the world. That accolade has officially been achieved by LeBron, as he just passed Kobe Bryant to become the third-highest scorer in NBA history. He now only trails Karl Malone (36,928 points) and Kareem Abdul-Jabaar (38,387 points).
Lebron passes Kobe for 3rd on the all-time scoring list pic.twitter.com/VIflsYjk5J
— The Render (@TheRenderNBA2) January 26, 2020
The moment came in Saturday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers, as LeBron drove to the hole as he’s done a million times to officially pass Kobe’s 33,643 total points. LeBron James passed Michael Jordan in career points last year as a Laker, but this one might feel even more special, as LeBron passes one of the most beloved Lakers ever while wearing the purple-and-gold himself.
Kobe Bryant passed Michael Jordan with a free throw against the Minnesota Timberwolves on December 14th, 2014. Even at that time, it was considered an inevitability that LeBron (playing his first season back with the Cleveland Cavaliers at that point) would pass Kobe in total points scored. However, nobody could have predicted in 2014 that LeBron would be doing so a little more than six years later as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.
When Kobe was recently asked about LeBron and how he would be passing Kobe on the list soon, he had this to say (per Bill Oram/The Athletic):
“It’s great,” Bryant said. “I think it’s great for him. I mean, the amount of work he’s put in over his career, consistency, I think it’s awesome.”
LeBron was also asked about it after the win against the Nets on Thursday that put him within 18 points of achieving the feat, saying the following (full quote below):
“Just to be able to at this point in my career to share the same jersey that he wore, be with this historical franchise and just represent the purple and gold, it’s very humbling. It’s dope. Kobe is a legend, that’s for damn sure.”
LeBron James on what it means to be getting close to passing Kobe in all-time scoring, how Kobe served as an "inspiration" for him growing up, and why they would have played well together (via @SpectrumSN): pic.twitter.com/wW0yFUAVyZ
— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) January 23, 2020
Kobe played one more season after that 2014-15 season where he passed Jordan, with LeBron being expected to definitely play more than one season after this current 2019-20 campaign. As I stated above, he only has Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabaar to pass to become the greatest scorer in NBA history. If he averages 25 points per game (right around his current season average) for 132 more games, he will pass Karl Malone. That means LeBron would pass Malone during the very early stages of the 2021-22 regular season. LeBron is technically still under contract with the Lakers for that season, but in the form of a player option.
There’s definitely no guarantee, but your odds would be decent if you wanted to bet on LeBron passing The Mailman in total career points. As for passing Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, LeBron would have to play 58 more games at the same 25-points-per-game pace to pass him for first all-time. This would allow him to pass Kareem in the same 2021-22 regular season, but towards the end. That’s, of course, assuming the best when you consider any potential injuries and any decline in play (LeBron will turn 37-years-old in the 2021-22 season). But either way, LeBron ending his career with the most points in NBA history is a real possibility.
Whether that would happen with LeBron as a Laker remains to be seen. For now, let’s appreciate this moment as we watch our current Lakers superstar, pass the last great superstar to suit up for the Los Angeles Lakers.