Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
VIDEO: Relive LeBron James’ career milestones
> LeBron James turns 31 today and is rising fast in the NBA’s record books for career points and career assists. Will LeBron end his career as the only player in the top 5 in both categories?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Points? Yes. That won’t be a problem. But LeBron James isn’t even two-thirds of the way to the No. 5 spot on the all-time assists list (Magic Johnson, 10,141). To get there, at his career pace of 6.9 per game, he would need to log another 530 or so games, which would move him into fifth all-time in that category too. That would also take him deep into the 2021-22 season — assuming no lockouts or strikes — by which time he’ll be 37. Can he maintain that career rate till the end? The great Oscar Robertson averaged 7.6 assists over his final five seasons – but at a rate 20 percent less than his career average (9.5 apg) and 27 percent less than his rate through his first nine seasons (10.5). Maybe he gets there because Magic and Oscar (No. 6 on the assists list at 9.887) provide great targets and motivation, but if he tapers off at all, the assists list will be too steep for him to scale.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: It’s more likely that James makes it into the top five in points than assists. At his career rate of seven assists per, in 10 years he would still be short of No. 5 Magic Johnson on the assist list. I just don’t see LeBron pushing his career well into his 40s.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Doubtful, even coming from someone who doesn’t put anything past LeBron. That’s still a lot of years at a high level, especially with the assists. It’s a haul even if his game changes in the seasons to come and he turns into much more of a distributor than a scorer, and then a lot will depend on his health or simply whether he wants to keep playing at 35 or 36. Seeing him make a run would be nice, though, because passing has been one of the underrated aspects of his game. James has great vision and can deliver the ball.
Shaun Powell, NBA.com: I don’t see LeBron maintaining the scoring pace. I don’t think points mean that much to him, at least in the regular season, and though I don’t have reason to suspect his body will begin to wear soon, he is flesh and blood. And if Kyrie Irving can stay healthy, I also see LeBron’s assists falling soon.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: He shouldn’t have any problem catching Wilt Chamberlain in points, but catching Magic Johnson (or Chris Paul, who could pass Magic first) in assists will be difficult. It’s hard to see LeBron playing eight or nine more seasons when he’s played more minutes than anyone in NBA history at this age and is starting to show signs of wearing down.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: LeBron will have to play at least another decade at his current level to climb into the top five in both categories, which would be an amazing accomplishment. That’s 23 years of grinding away on a body that even by LeBron’s own otherworldly standard, should not be capable of such a feat. If he captures two or three more NBA titles before he reaches 20 years of NBA service, I can see him walking away instead of chasing a milestone that no man before him has attained.
Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: He’s probably going to need an additional seven years to reach the top 5 in assists. Will his back enable him to play until he’s 38, in spite of his mileage? I know their sports are entirely different, but it is shocking how quickly Tiger Woods has been diminished by his back problems. And Larry Bird’s career was cut short by back issues too. My own hope is that LeBron will continue to thrive so that we can see him adapt his game as he ages – health permitting, he could extend his career well into his late 30s as a bullying back-to-the-basket power forward.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I’m guessing it’s going to be close. LeBron currently has just over 25,000 points, and he’ll need about 6,000 more to make it into the top five. Figuring he averages (conservatively) 20 point per game going forward, that’s 300 more games, or about 5 seasons, which certainly seems within reach. To me, it’s the assists that might be problematic. LeBron currently has 6,473 assists, and would need 3,668 to reach the top five. Assuming he averages 5 assists per game, that’s about 733 games, which is almost 9 more seasons. To me, if anyone could continue playing at such a high level, it’s LeBron. It’s more of a question of whether or not he wants to do it.