LeBron James is on the verge of overtaking Kobe Bryant for third on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, another massive achievement for the 35-year-old Los Angeles Lakers superstar forward.
“King” James is a three-time NBA champion and four-time league Most Valuable Player in his 17th NBA campaign who enters the Lakers’ game Thursday at Brooklyn with 33,599 career points.
Bryant, who spent his entire 20-year NBA career with the Lakers, has 33,643 career points. He won five NBA titles with the Lakers as well as two gold medals alongside James on the 2008 and 2012 US Olympic teams.
With LeBron James averaging 25.1 points a game and needing only 45 to take third, he’s on pace to pass Bryant on Saturday in a nationally televised game at Philadelphia.
Bryant says James missing the playoffs with the Lakers last season after 13 consecutive campaigns in the post-season and eight in the NBA Finals has inspired James, who leads the NBA this season with 10.8 assists a game.
“He’s coming in this year with a chip on his shoulder obviously because of what everybody was saying that he’s washed up,” Bryant told USA Today.
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“When I first came into the league, the average age was like 33 or 32. Now that you’re 35… you are washed up and you are dying. It’s kind of silly. But I think he’s doing a fantastic job.”
Bryant also isn’t upset about James passing his career points total, telling the newspaper: “You should be happy for the person that comes after you to be able to surpass things that you’ve done. It’s kind of juvenile to think or to behave any other way.”
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar owns the all-time NBA record with 38,387 points, most of them in a Lakers uniform, while second on the list is Karl Malone with 36,928 over 18 seasons with Utah and a final campaign with the Lakers in 2003-04.
James, who missed a career-high 27 games last season due to injury, has been out only twice this season.
James has resisted comparisons to Bryant over the years, although each was heralded as the heir to Michael Jordan as the NBA’s greatest player in his heyday.
“I think that’s unfair,” James told CBS last year about comparisons with Bryant and Jordan. “At the end of the day, we are all different.”
“We all take different challenges. We’ve all had challenges, we’ve all had different courses, but the one thing that’s the same is that we would do anything to play this game of basketball every single day.
“Mike had his path. Mike was the greatest. Kobe had his path. Kobe was the greatest. I had my own path. Hopefully, someday someone will say I’m the greatest.”