You legions of LeBron James haters don’t want to hear this, but it’s true — he is on pace to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and become the NBA’s all time leading scorer. He’s on pace to find a place in the record books in a number of other areas, too, such as being up the list on total assists.
But if a full NBA season is wiped out, how does that impact his record chase?
Not that much for the overall scoring title, according to the sharp mind of Kevin Pelton, who crunched the numbers for ESPN. But it could impact other areas.
James has set such an incredible pace that wiping out a full season’s worth of statistics might not have a huge impact on his chances of making history. For example, without scoring a single point next season, James would still have the most points of any NBA player through his age-27 season. The biggest impact of losing a season of James’ prime on his career stats would be changing just how high he sets the bar for the next generation of stars.
There would be secondary impacts. For example, one of the surprising results of the previous (advanced statistical based) projection was James finishing his career second or third in NBA history in assists. He’s fourth through age 26, behind Magic Johnson, (Isiah) Thomas and Stephon Marbury, but the group is close enough that losing a year’s worth of dimes would set James back considerably.
However, fairly or not, James’ legacy has always gone far beyond the numbers. In that regard, not playing this season could prove quite damaging. Despite the fact that James is just reaching his peak, the age of his Miami Heat teammates could cut the team’s window for winning championships short. Miami’s projected WARP totals drop off noticeably after 2011-12.
For LeBron’s legacy, it is that last paragraph that matters. He will go down as one of the greatest individual players ever to step on the court no matter what he does from now on, but to be put in the pantheon of the best ever he has to win multiple titles.
He’s on a team that is a contender right now but could be forced to see changes depending on the new salary system. A year lost is a run at a title lost, and those are too valuable for LeBron to loose at any stage of his career.