Opinion: LeBron earns scoring title, but Kareem is still the GOAT


Photo courtesy of Kip-koech via Flickr.

Michael Dumansky, Reporter

LeBron James finally did it. He has broken the NBA all-time scoring record. A 39-year record formerly held by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the scoring title now held by James was so desperately coveted by so many NBA greats.

Yes, there is no doubt that LeBron James will go down as one of the greatest NBA players of all time, but he should not be considered the greatest.

That title is, and will always be, held by Kareem.

To prove this, I like to look at all the bare facts on why he is the greatest statistically, as well as his awards.

Abdul-Jabbar came into the league after winning three national championships at the University of California, Los Angeles. He became a threat as he entered the league by using his height to his advantage and utilizing his signature move, the skyhook. Abdul-Jabbar was able to perfect it, a shot that has slowly faded from the game. He was able to take advantage of his defenders’ positioning, thus making the skyhook a virtually impossible shot to block.

Yes, the argument could be made that the game was different back then and players going against LeBron today are more physical, faster and more athletic, but that does not take away from Kareem’s dominance.

In his time with the Milwaukee Bucks, Kareem made it known why he was the consensus No. 1 overall pick in the 1969 draft. In his rookie season, he ranked second in league scoring with 28.8 points per game and third in rebounding with 14.5 boards per game. His instant impact helped create buzz around the team, and in the offseason of 1970 the Bucks traded for 12-time All-Star and six-time assist leader Oscar Robertson. This acquisition was all Kareem needed to help Milwaukee secure its first NBA title in 1971.

Taking a closer look at both resumes, Kareem’s second and third seasons are vastly different from LeBron’s. In his second and third year, Kareem led the league in scoring when there were no 3-point field goals to account for. Overall, he averaged 31.7 and 34.8 points per game in those seasons, respectively.

LeBron averaged 27.2 and 31.4 points per game in his second- and third-year campaigns as a pro. Looking at the scope of Kareem’s first few seasons, many stats such as offensive and defensive rebounds were not recorded. On top of that, blocks were not taken into account, leaving it up to the imagination how many more he could have added to the 3,189 listed under his name.

In addition to all he was able to do on the offensive end, Kareem was selected to 11 All-Defensive teams, showcasing his ability as a true all-around player. LeBron is five away from matching that mark, and it is unlikely he will surpass Abdul-Jabbar in that category.

This showed how much Kareem was able to provide early on. It showed he was needed on the court night in and night out. He was able to give everything on both ends of the floor. This only reinforces the point that he was not just dominant on the offensive end, but on the defensive end as well.

Kareem was needed on his team. He was nicknamed “The Captain,” and captains aren’t spectators. They lead their team to the ultimate goal at the end of each season — a championship.

After the 1974-75 NBA season, Kareem moved on from the Bucks and went to the Los Angeles Lakers in a trade. Abdul-Jabbar’s transition to Los Angeles was an easy one as he continued his dominant career.

In his first season with the Lakers, Kareem averaged 27.7 points per game, while leading the league in rebounding with 16.9, as well as blocked shots with 4.1. At the end of that season, he earned his fourth MVP award.

After all the playoff woes of the next few seasons, the Lakers got Abdul-Jabbar some help in the 1979-80 draft, when they selected game-changing point guard Magic Johnson. This acquisition helped Abdul-Jabbar secure his next five championship titles. This duo helped establish the Lakers of the ‘80s and revolutionized how people watched the game.

Kareem has more rings than LeBron, plain and simple. He won the titles without jumping to super teams. Yes, pieces were put around him, but his presence as a leader during the most critical moments made the team better.

With all of the hoopla around this record and what it means, it still needs to be seen through a microscope. The careers of both men were so vastly different.

Even though the record has been broken, it shouldn’t spark a debate that LeBron has taken the greatest-of-all-time title away from Kareem.