Since his early days playing basketball, LeBron James has considered himself more of a passer than a scorer. But he has always been dynamic at the rim, and later in his N.B.A. career he developed a shooting touch that made him even more dangerous offensively.
Twenty years of perfecting exactly how to attack N.B.A. defenses have brought James to the cusp of a historic achievement that had once seemed almost impossible for anyone to reach.
James, the Los Angeles Lakers star, is 178 points away from eclipsing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s career total of 38,387. Abdul-Jabbar has been the N.B.A.’s career scoring leader since April 5, 1984 — more than eight months before James was born. Abdul-Jabbar played five more seasons for the Lakers after passing Wilt Chamberlain for that title.
As James has approached the record, he has increased his scoring output to 35 points per game in January, up from 28.5 points per game in the season’s first three months. This season and 2021-22 have been two of the highest-scoring of his career. Though it would be difficult, it is possible he could break the record against the Knicks on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden, one of his favorite arenas. Four games later, the Lakers will host the Milwaukee Bucks in a game between the two N.B.A. teams for which Abdul-Jabbar played.
Wednesday vs. San Antonio Spurs
Saturday @ Boston Celtics
Monday @ Nets
Tuesday @ KnicksAdvertisementAdvertisement
Feb. 2 @ Indiana Pacers
Feb. 4 @ New Orleans Pelicans
Feb. 7 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Feb. 9 vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Here are some of James’s notable performances this season:
Jan. 24 vs. Los Angeles Clippers: 46 points
The Clippers took a big lead early, and from then on the only facet of the game that seemed to be working for the Lakers was James’s long-range shooting. James made nine 3-pointers, a career high, on 14 attempts.
James ended the night with 46 points, making it the first time he’d scored at least 40 points against the Clippers. He is now the first player ever to score at least 40 points in a game against all 30 N.B.A. teams.
Despite James’s good night, the Lakers lost, 133-115, leaving James dejected as he sat on the bench at the end of the game.
Jan. 16 vs. Houston Rockets: 48 points
The Lakers had just come off close losses to the Dallas Mavericks and Philadelphia 76ers and were on a three-game losing streak. James has produced several impressive performances in losses this season, but he enjoys it more when the team wins. This game was his highest scoring this season, and came on the second night of a back-to-back.
He also got a reminder of his age when the Houston rookie Jabari Smith Jr. told him during the game that his father had played against him in James’s first N.B.A. game in 2003. At 38, James is one of the oldest players in the league.
“I could have very easily took tonight off, but I don’t feel like the momentum of our ball club could use me taking a night off tonight,” James said after the game. “I don’t feel like I wanted to sit on that loss to Philly last night. I kind of wanted to get that out of my taste buds.”
Dec. 2 at Milwaukee Bucks: 28 points
This wasn’t one of James’s highest-scoring games, but it was one that showed the Lakers’ potential when they’re at full strength. Anthony Davis was healthy and scored 44 points as the Lakers beat one of the Eastern Conference’s best teams on the road.
James’s 11 assists allowed him to pass Magic Johnson for the sixth-most career assists in N.B.A. history. It was also his 900th career win.