LeBron James has moved past Karl Malone into second place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list and now only trails Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Assuming a healthy season next year (a big assumption) Bron will pass Abdul-Jabbar sometime between mid-January and mid-February.
He also has a chance this season to win his second scoring title. It’s good he has these accolades to play for, because the Lakers (31-41) won’t be competing for a title this postseason. Are individual accolades all that’s left for LeBron the rest of his career?
On Monday night, LBJ continued his assault on the record books hitting in 17-of-29 shots for 38 points, 12 assists, and 11 rebounds for his sixth triple-double of the season. At 37, James is the oldest player in NBA history to register a 30-point triple-double.
He does it all 👑 pic.twitter.com/SdI9PmLVJf
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 22, 2022
There’s a group of prominent talking heads, FS1’s Skip Bayless among them, that says LeBron will win the scoring title this season because winning games is no longer number one on LeBron’s priority list.
“It is a done deal that LeBron is going to win this scoring title,” Bayless said last week. “Winning is his 4th or 5th priority on the list.”
LeBron is a competitor and wants to win more titles, but it looks like it won’t be feasible the way he wants to do it anymore. The Lakers are a disaster this season. You can blame injuries, but the preseason betting favorite to win the title is in 10th place in the conference and 11 games below .500.
This roster is ill-fitting and was constructed primarily at LeBron’s request. He wanted Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook as teammates. When you have LeBron, Westbrook and Anthony Davis taking up more than 80 percent of the salary cap, there’s not much money left to fill out the remaining 12 players on a roster.
The situation won’t look much better next season with LeBron on the last year of his deal, Davis on board for two more, and Westbrook all but guaranteed to opt into the final year of his deal.
Unless they can move off the Westbrook money and get value in return, the Lakers won’t be competing for a title next year either.
LeBron will be 38 next season and while he’s still a very productive and valuable player, he’s no longer the player you let run the franchise. If it’s something he can’t agree to, then you move on from him if you’re the Lakers and you try and recoup some of the draft capital and young talent you gave up in acquiring the players he wanted.
In the meantime, earning individual accolades is all that remains this season in Los Angeles. After Monday’s game, LeBron has boosted his scoring average to 30.0 ppg and is in a tight race with the 76ers’ Joel Embiid (29.8 ppg) and the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo (29.8 ppg) and Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant (29.6 ppg) for the scoring title.
With the Bucks and 76ers firmly locked in the top six but still working on positioning they may elect to rest their stars in some games down the stretch. There’s no chance LeBron will sit any of the Lakers’ remaining 10 games. They’re only 3.0 games ahead of 11th, which would knock them out of the play-in tournament.
Technically, LeBron isn’t eligible to win the scoring title until he’s played in 58 games. The other two scoring leaders hit that mark already. LeBron is at 54 games, having missed time with an injury earlier this year. Another reason he’s unlikely to sit down the stretch.
In a season that began with loftier team goals, individual success is all that remains for LeBron.