With 39 points Wednesday night, LeBron James moved into second place on two all-time playoff lists—the most 30-plus point games, and the most playoff points of all-time. He still trails Michael Jordan in both categories, although he has a good chance of passing him in the latter this year. James has long been in the best player ever conversation based on skills alone. Slowly but surely he is making the statistical case as well.
Just consider who he’s passing. In all-time playoff points it was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the standard bearer for longevity. Abdul-Jabbar played 20 seasons and went to the playoffs in 18 of them. He won six championships, played in 10 NBA Finals, was named Finals MVP in two different decades. Yes, there were fewer rounds in the early days, but it’s still a significant achievement. James is just 200-odd points behind Jordan for the all-time record. If he can maintain his current 34.2 ppg playoff average, he’ll pass Jordan in just six more games.
As far as 30-plus point playoff games go, James tied Kobe Bryant at 88, with, again, Jordan the only one left to chase. That record won’t fall this year—Jordan recorded 109 of them, and James doesn’t even have that many playoff games left—but he should take sole possession of second place, well, following Game 3. Through the first two games, the Raptors have shown little ability to stop (or even slow) James, and he’s taken full advantage.
as games continue to go by and records continue to fall, it’ll only get tougher and tougher to not give the King his due.
LeBron James played in his first-ever playoff game on April 22, 2006. He put up 32 points and 11 rebounds against the Washington Wizards. Every single other player who played that night is out of the NBA. Last night, James put up the aforementioned 39 points—on 10-14 from the floor, 4-6 from three. His peak has already lasted longer than most NBA careers. Instead of drug-testing him, the NBA should check whether James even tests positive for blood.
Because as James continues to pass milestone after milestone, he’s shown no signs of slowing, let alone aging. He’s played 50,000-plus minutes in his career, and even with his much-maligned rest days, played 74 games this season while leading the league in minutes played for the first time since his second season. He’s only 32, but he’s already passed Wilt Chamberlain in regular-season games played, and, health willing, will pass both Jordan and Charles Barkley around the time All-Star ballots are released next year. Remember, when it comes to basketball aging it’s like Indiana Jones once said: It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage.
There are those who feel James can never be considered the best player ever, and that’s fine. Some feel that he was eliminated from that discussion the first time he reached a Finals and lost, or when he made the decision to leave Cleveland. Those people will never be satisfied, no matter what else James accomplishes. But as games continue to go by and records continue to fall, it’ll only get tougher and tougher to not give the King his due.