LeBron James is only 18 points away from yet another career milestone. James can become the youngest player to score 20,000 points on Wednesday night when the Heat face the Golden State Warriors.
Already the youngest player to win Rookie of the Year, record a triple-double, and score 10,000 points, James can reach the 20,000-point mark over a year before the current record-holder, Kobe Bryant, did it.
On Wednesday, James will be 28 years and 17 days old. When Bryant scored his 20,000th point, he was 29 years and 112 days old. Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan were the only other players to break 20,000 before turning 30.
Of course, James had the advantage of entering the NBA straight out of high school as an 18-year-old. He has played 762 career games, and six players have reached 20,000 points in fewer games (Chamberlain, Jordan, Oscar Robertson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elgin Baylor and Allen Iverson).
All the more incredible is the fact that James has averaged 6.9 assists per game through his career, so he could have reached 20,000 faster if he was a bit more selfish.
"If LeBron was a different kind of player, he'd have a lot more points by now," teammate Dwyane Wade said. "He's so unselfish. We give him the ball enough to score more. He just won't do it. We've had the discussion. We've sat down at dinner and we both said, 'Sometimes, I wish I had it in me.' We talk about it, we joke about it, but when the game comes he's unselfish."
It is almost guaranteed that James can score 18 points on Wednesday. Through the Heat's first 36 games, he has failed to score 20 points only once. But even James, a three-time MVP, admits that he is not considered one of the best pure scorers in the NBA.
"If you talk to all the basketball 'people,' I'm not much of a scorer," James said. "When the conversation comes up with the best scorers in the game today, I'm never mentioned. Ever. It's Kobe, it's KD, it's Melo, it was D-Wade, but they don't talk about us anymore. When you talk about scorers, I never get mentioned."
James is excited about reaching the 20,000 mark. "It'll be big-time," he said Tuesday. "I'm not going to shy away from that. I'm not a big stats guy as far as individual, but that'll be pretty cool."
But James is not dead-set on someday challenging Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's all-time scoring mark. "That many points is not what it's about for me," James said. "If I happen to get there, it'll be cool. I don't think I will. I don't know — 38,000 is crazy. If I concentrated on just scoring, then I could make a push at it."
Abdul-Jabbar retired in 1989 with 38,387 points. If James keeps up his career scoring average of 24.9 points a game, it would take him 740 games to get to 38,387, over nine full seasons (when he'll be 37, old but not ancient). James has been fortunate enough to stay healthy through the first 10 seasons of his career, but can he keep that up (along with his scoring average – which could drop off late in his career)?
"Obviously, no one's done it yet," Wade said. "But if he stays healthy, he's the one who could challenge it."