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LeBron James needed roughly 20 years in the NBA to break Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's all-time scoring record. Considering the fact that Abdul-Jabbar's record stood for nearly four decades, any initial projections would have assumed that, at best, the eventual record-breaker would just barely scrape by that all-time mark. After all, Abdul-Jabbar averaged only 10.1 points per game in his final NBA season.

But James averaged just under 29 in the season in which he broke Abdul-Jabbar's record. He's at 25 per game a year later, and lest you believe he's slowing down, his game this past week saw him singlehandedly outscore the Clippers in a 21-point fourth-quarter comeback. James may not be at his own peak, but he's outpacing pretty much everyone else's.

He became the first player in NBA history to score 40,000 regular-season points on Saturday in a 124-114 loss to the Nuggets. As we've covered, he's not going to stop there.

Eventually, James will (probably) retire. His all-time scoring record changes by the day, but eventually, it is going to settle at some preposterously high number. The question now is... what will it be? When James eventually calls it a career, what will his final scoring tally be? That's what we're here to figure out. To settle on a number, we're going to answer three questions facing the Laker great and use those answers to project a final tally.

Question 1: So when will LeBron retire?

James has given us no direct indication of how much longer he plans to remain in the NBA. "I don't have a cap on how long I want to play," he said in 2022. However, there are a few resources we can use as a guideline.

The oldest player in NBA history was Nat Hickey, who played two games just shy of his 46th birthday. Of course, those aren't really relevant to us because this happened in 1948 and he activated himself as the coach of the Providence Steamrollers. The real answer here is Kevin Willis, who played until he was 44. But Willis played only 43 minutes in his final season, and he never played 30 minutes per game once in his 40's. No, we're looking for players who remained contributors into their 40's, and those players are hard to find.

Only nine players have ever started 20 or more games in their age-40 season or later. You won't be surprised to hear that they are all Hall of Famers: Robert Parish (leader in the clubhouse as the only player to do so at 42, and he also did it at 40), Dikembe Mutombo (twice), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (twice), John Stockton, Karl Malone and Dirk Nowitzki. Generally speaking, only legends start at this age. James obviously qualifies, but these players are no slouches, either. If they all started to fade at right around the same benchmark, we should probably take that into consideration. If James lasts until his age-42 season as a starter, that would take us through the 2026-27 season.

That is an important milestone for another reason: it is when his second son, Bryce James, becomes eligible for the draft. James has long made it clear that he wants to play with his oldest son, Bronny, who is currently at USC. James has hinted at a desire to play with both, and he was even in a commercial that seemingly confirmed it. So, for now, let's say that the plan is to make it through the 2026-27 season and ideally suit up with both of his sons at some point along the way.

Question 2: How many games will he miss in those years?

Durability has long been a gift of James', but even that has faded somewhat with age. James missed only 71 games in total across his first 15 NBA seasons, giving him an average of just below five per season. Since he joined the Lakers, James has missed 141 out of a possible 449 regular-season games, or roughly an average of 20 per season when you remember that this season hasn't yet concluded. This season has been something of an outlier. He is currently on pace to play 71 games, which would be his most as a Laker so far.

History tells us that James is probably going to miss games as he gets older. Even the most charitable projections should assume he doesn't play in too many more back-to-backs. Is there a reliable way to project injuries? Not really, but we can try to glean a bit of intel from those famous quadragenarians we covered above.

The truth among them, though, is that there's no discernible pattern. Stockton didn't miss a single game in his last five seasons. Abdul-Jabbar missed only 10 across his two seasons in his 40's. And then, of course, there are players on the other end of the spectrum. Malone missed half of his age-40 season, but that was due to a knee injury. We can't exactly project specific injuries for James. He probably will suffer a meaningful injury at some point, but there's no accurate way to predict it. For now, let's assume that the trend of James missing roughly 20 games per year, if only due to maintenance, mostly holds up.

However, just because we lack a reliable trend when it comes to missed games does not mean we lack any meaningful data. Those veterans we covered above did have one thing in common once they reached their 40's: they played fewer minutes. Those six players we covered above averaged 27.6 minutes as 39-year-olds. Five of the six saw reductions when they hit 40, and the one that didn't was Mutombo, who was already playing very limited minutes. In total, their average dropped to 24.8 minutes as 40-year-olds. That's a decline of 2.8 minutes per game.

It seems reasonable to project a similar per-year drop onto James. Injuries have impacted his minutes so much over the last few years that there hasn't been too much of a linear trend, but it's worth noting that James played 37.2 minutes per game two seasons ago, dipped to 35.5 last season and is down to 35 this season. When James played just 29 minutes on opening night, Darvin Ham indicated that the Lakers planned to keep him at a similar number moving forward. They obviously didn't, but it's reasonable to assume that they will try to limit his playing time moving forward.

So let's build a reduction of 2.8 minutes per game into our expectation with the idea that James is going to miss roughly 20 games per year moving forward. Here's what his workload over the rest of this season and the next three seasons would look like:

Games left, projecting injuries

Minutes per game average

Total minutes

















So, using our not-at-all scientific method here, we can project that James plays another 6,145.8 minutes of regular-season NBA basketball. Now that we have that number, we can set about determining how many points he'll score in those minutes.

Question 3: How many points is James going to score in his remaining years?

Projecting decline here is, again, difficult. For his career, James has averaged 0.715 points per minute. This season, James is averaging... 0.719 points per minute. The raw total might look a bit lower than most seasons, but that's just because James is playing slightly less. 

It doesn't seem reasonable to use our six Hall of Famers as analogs here, either. Among them, only Stockton was a primary ball-handler like James. The rest were big men with less control over their shot attempts. We can't even say for certain how much control James will have moving forward. The Lakers have tried adding another high-end ball-handler on several occasions and will likely do so again. James might switch teams. We have no idea what his last few rosters will look like.

So we're going to take a shot in the dark here and reduce his per-minute scoring by the same percentage that we reduce his playing time. That would give us the following scoring numbers.

Projected minutes

Projected points per minute

Total point projection

















We've reached the point where most logic has flown out of the window, but there's not much we can do about it. James is such a historical anomaly that there's no way to accurately project his possible decline... if he even does decline.

Bringing it all together

James, to date, is over 40,0000 points in his regular-season career. The numbers we tallied above would have him scoring another 3,817 before he ultimately hangs it up. Therefore, our projected career point total for LeBron James is 43,777. The numbers feel somewhat fitting. The first two digits represent the age we expect him to be when he retires at the end of the 2026-27 season. The last three? Lucky sevens, not only to represent his extraordinarily successful career but also the potential Las Vegas expansion team he one day hopes to own.

How enormous is that figure? Well, the highest-scoring active player besides James right now is Kevin Durant... with 28,318 points. He would need to score more than 15,000 more points in his career to one day become the league's all-time leading scorer. It took him eight years to reach that figure when his career began, and he did so by leading the league in total points six times in that eight-year span. Do you expect Durant to play eight more years? Or lead the league in scoring six more times?

The answer is probably not. Barring extreme advances in medical science, there is a chance that James is going to set a record so high that no other NBA player ever touches it.