LeBron and 40,000

THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco - The Philippine Star
LeBron and 40,000
LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Christian Petersen / Getty Images / AFP

Some time within the next week LeBron James will etch another seemingly indelible mark into the NBA record books. James is poised to reach the superhuman milestone of 40,000 points in an NBA career. Even in their wildest fevered dreams, no NBA player has dreamed this would be humanly possible. And yet, here we are.

The initial projection was middle of next week, given that he still had 132 points to go and was averaging 24 points per game. Then came that 30-point outburst in a win over the San Antonio Spurs, and all of a sudden, the projections shortened. As of this writing, the only active player left from the 2003 NBA Rookie Draft has just 102 points to go before hitting that milestone.

On Feb. 28 (Thursday, Feb. 29 in the Philippines), James and the Los Angeles Lakers face the LA Clippers. The following day, they entertain the Washington Wizards. The Lakers forward, who surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the league’s all-time leading scorer a year ago and breached the 39,000-point barrier last November, has a shot at hitting 40,000 either against the Denver Nuggets (March 3 here) or the Oklahoma City Thunder (March 5, Manila time).

What does this remarkable record mean?

Long-time NBA statistician Elliott Kalb wrote his best-selling book “Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Basketball?” which was published mere months after James was drafted into the NBA, he christened Karl Malone “The Compiler.” Malone, who retired in 2006, is still third on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with 36,928, never won a championship (thanks mostly to the presence of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls), but consistently put up massive numbers. James has done all that and so much more. On a purely unbiased, statistical basis, this feat will be unparalleled, historic. It will probably never be broken in this lifetime.

Something that James does that is dismissed outright by most other players is how driven LeBron is to stay at the top of his game. His 2003 batchmates like Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade scoff at how much (financially and materially) he puts into maintaining his body, and how much he still wants to play, even after all of these years. The nutrition treatment and exercises are available to everyone at that level, but who else avails of them? You can call it obsessive or even fanatical, but it has kept James at his peak higher and longer than any other player before him. That is what his kind of greatness is about. He has been in the game and at such as high level for so long, he has had opportunities to succeed and fail, the later of which people take against him. But the fact of the matter is that he is still doing things no one else has done, at what was once theoretically an advanced age for an athlete in any sport. We – and other athletes – need to take a long, hard look at that.

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