Timberwolves

Anthony Edwards Could Break LeBron's Scoring Record

Photo Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA world stopped for about 10 minutes on Tuesday night when LeBron James knocked down a turnaround jumper over Kenrich Williams to become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, finally breaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record that stood for 39 years. LeBron’s record is barely 48 hours old, and yet us sickos are already looking to the future and who could potentially break his record decades from now.

The chatter naturally shifted to Kevin Durant as the next in line. Unfortunately for KD, he’s 12,000 points behind LeBron and only four years younger. He also has a bunch of injury issues, making it virtually impossible to play catch up. He’d have to average 35 points per game and play in all 82 games for the next four seasons just to get to where LeBron is now. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Steph Curry likely began their high-level scoring too late into their careers to make up ground now.

For a realistic heir to LeBron’s scoring record, we have to look at the under-25 crop of players who have played their entire careers during the three-point revolution to find James’ true successor. Three names stick out: Jayson Tatum, Trae Young, and Luka Dončić. Tatum turns 25 next month and has already amassed 9230 points during his five-and-a-half seasons in the NBA (22.1 ppg). Young will turn 25 in September and has 8362 points to his name in 328 games (25.5 ppg). And Dončić has just over a year until his 25th birthday and has 8531 points across his first 311 games (27.4 ppg).

Those are all great starts to future Hall-of-Fame careers, but to put things in perspective, LeBron James played 505 games and scored 13,927 points (27.6 ppg) before turning 25. That’s an insane gap between the Chosen One and three of the best young players in the NBA. Two major factors are LeBron’s crazy durability and his ability to enter the NBA as an 18-year-old out of high school. Of the three young stars, one would think Luka has the best chance of coming close to James’ record. Luka’s early career scoring average is almost identical to LeBron’s, and the Slovenian is averaging 33.4 points per game this season. But physical and durability issues could keep Doncic from ever playing enough games in his career to put pressure on the King’s record.

We may have to go even younger to find the next all-time scoring champ. Could Anthony Edwards, 21, have what it takes to someday surpass LeBron James as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer and drop an f-bomb on live TV? Let’s do some math.

Edwards is 202 games into his NBA career and has already scored 4360 points (21.6 ppg). He’s currently averaging 24.7 points per game in 58 games this season. Let’s say Ant plays every game and averages 24.7 games across the remaining 24 games this season and 246 games over his next three seasons before turning 25 in August 2026. If all of these things happen, Ant will enter his age-25 season with 11,029 points to his name, still almost 3,000 fewer than LeBron had by 25. If Ant keeps averaging 24.7 points per game for the rest of his career, he would need to play another 1,377 games to reach 38,390 points where LeBron sits now. That’s almost 17 more full 82-game seasons that would see Ant hit the mark in 2040.

There are obvious issues with thinking that Edwards could break the scoring record. The first is that LeBron has only played 1410 games in his entire career, so hoping Ant can play every single game across a 20-year career is insane. Even missing five games per season would cause Ant to have to add another season to break LeBron’s record. LeBron is one of the most durable athletes in history, and he has only suited up for 82 games once during his 20-year career. In today’s era of load management, even if Edwards can get through an entire career injury-free, it’s highly unlikely he will play more than 75 games per season.

The other elephant in the room is that LeBron isn’t done setting the record yet. He just turned 38, is averaging 30 points per game in his 20th season, and has said many times that he wants to play with his son, who won’t be draft-eligible until 2024. That’s at least two more seasons if LeBron is a man of his word, which means 38,390 is nowhere near the final number. The Lakers have 27 games remaining this season. Let’s say James suits up for 20 as they try to push for a play-in spot. That’s another 500 points this season, and even if he averages 25 points per game over the next two seasons and plays 100 games across those seasons, that’s another 2,500 points he’s adding to his record.

That means the generously low end of LeBron’s final point total could easily be 42,000 points. That means Ant would have to keep his same production every game for 18.5 more seasons. LeBron could probably average 15 points and play in every other game well into his 40s, so if he wants to keep going, he could push his record far beyond the reach of any living player.

It seems daunting, but Anthony Edwards has a few things going for him that could make scoring more than 40,000 points a little bit easier. The biggest thing Ant has going for him is he’s a product of the three-point revolution in the NBA. LeBron James spent the first half of his career inside the arc and made his 500th three towards the end of his fifth season in the NBA. He never attempted more than six threes per game until he arrived in Los Angeles in 2018-19, when he launched 6.1 threes per game.

Anthony Edwards became the youngest player in NBA history to make 500 threes and already has 543 triples two-thirds of the way into his third season. If he keeps up his same three-point production and plays as many games as LeBron has in his career, Ant will make more than 1,500 more threes than James (3,790 to 2,237). With how the NBA is going, that number could always keep ticking up and give Edwards an even bigger advantage over LeBron.

The other reason not to count out Edwards is basketball is a much faster game today than when LeBron entered the league 20 years ago. During LeBron’s rookie season, the Denver Nuggets led the league in pace with 94 possessions per game. In 2023, that would be dead last in the league by a wide margin, and the Timberwolves are one of the fastest teams in the league. More possessions mean more opportunities for Ant to score. There’s been a scoring explosion around the league this season, with seven players averaging more than 30 points per game (LeBron included).

It’s not inconceivable that Ant will soon join that group. If he can bump his scoring up to 30 points per game, it would ease his path to 42,000 points to just over 15 seasons, breaking the barrier in 2038. Only Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan have ever averaged 30 points per game across their career. Therefore, any path to the scoring title would need to see Anthony Edwards become one of the pantheon-tier great players of all time.

LeBron James is a once-in-a-generation athlete, and his record will likely stand for another generation to break. But records are made to be broken, and Anthony Edwards has done enough through his first three seasons not to eliminate himself from contention. Changes to how the game is played, youth, durability, consistency, and constant improvement will be needed over nearly two decades for Edwards even to get close, but it’s not impossible. Any major injury, lockout, or even just an off-season can derail Ant’s chances at NBA immortality. Still, he’s in a position if he keeps improving, stays in shape, and stays healthy to have an opportunity to become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.

I’m going to optimistically say he falls short of the all-time record but lands somewhere in the vicinity of Kobe Bryant‘s 33,643 career points, which is fourth all-time. Since becoming one of the greatest players ever, most fans forget that Kobe was far from an elite scorer and didn’t become an elite scorer until his fifth season in the league. From Year 5 on, Bryant averaged 27.2 points per game and poured in more than 29,000 points in his last 16 seasons. Ant isn’t far off from 27 points per game right now, and averaging 67.5 games played like Kobe seems feasible, especially when you add in his injury issues that plagued the last few years of his career.

It all depends, as the NBA has for so many years, on what LeBron James decides to do with his life. The door is open if he’s tired and retires at a normal age in the next year or two. But if he pulls a Tom Brady and plays into his 40s, there’s little hope that anyone currently in the league will be able to put it all together to challenge the record. LeBron James was born nine months after Kareem broke the scoring record in 1984. Perhaps some frisky Lakers fan is nine months away from producing the NBA’s next scoring champion.

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