While LeBron James worked on breaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time NBA scoring record, there were a few anecdotes that posed an interesting case for how Cap could have scored even more points to build upon his long-standing feat.
On one hand, Abdul-Jabbar played more games (1,560) than James (1,410 and counting), and he had more field goal attempts (28,307) than James (27,829 and counting) to reach the record. But on the other hand, Abdul-Jabbar only made one 3-point field goal in his career, being outscored by 6,711 points (!) from beyond the arc compared to James.
And that’s just at the NBA level.
Where things really get interesting for Abdul-Jabbar is the fact that due to NBA rule restrictions back in the 1960s, he was forced to play four years of college basketball before becoming draft-eligible. As you know, LeBron was drafted right out of high school in 2003.
That creates the intriguing question: if Abdul-Jabbar could’ve gone straight to the NBA, how many more points would he have scored?
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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s college stats
It should come as no surprise that Abdul-Jabbar — who was known as Lew Alcindor in college before converting to Islam in 1971 — racked up records and accolades during his four years at UCLA.
Believe it or not, Alcindor was forced to play freshman basketball his first year, because freshmen were not yet allowed to compete at the varsity level.
When the 7-footer finally got called up to varsity his sophomore season, he dominated immediately. Over three years on varsity, Alcindor led UCLA to three NCAA championships while earning three NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player awards and two AP Player of the Year honors (not to mention, two Sporting News Player of the Year awards!)
Alcindor poured in 2,325 points in 88 games over three varsity seasons. When he was finally eligible for the NBA Draft in 1969, the Milwaukee Bucks selected him with the No. 1 overall pick.
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How many more NBA points could Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have scored?
Abdul-Jabbar became the NBA’s all-time leading scorer in 1984. He retired with 38,387 points, but if he didn’t have to go to college, that total could have been even higher.
By the time Abdul-Jabbar entered the NBA, he was 22 years old and ready to make an immediate impact. His domination was instant, leading the entire league in total points in his first three NBA seasons.
- 1969-70: League-leading 2,361 points
- 1970-71: League-leading 2,596 points
- 1971-72: League-leading 2,822 points
While it’s impossible to say if Abdul-Jabbar would have had the same instant impact in the NBA as a teenager, his supremacy at the college level leads me to believe that success could have translated at the age of 18 or 19. At the very least, it’s safe to assume Abdul-Jabbar could have added another 8,000 points to his total (2,000 per season), taking his record to well over 46,000 points.
If you take the average of total points in his first three years in the league (2,593) and multiply it by the four years he spent in college, you could add another 10,372 points (!) to his total.
That would bring his record up to a rough estimate of 48,759 points — a number that would almost certainly never, ever be broken.