Pro Basketball's 2000 Point ClubThis article was originally published at NBCSports.com on 1/18/07; the text has been slightly modified and the charts have been updated to include statistics from the 2006-07 season
Scoring 2000 points in an NBA season requires a rare combination of productivity and durability. If a player participates in all 82 games he must average 24.4 ppg to reach this milestone. Every missed game requires an extra .3 ppg to stay on pace for 2000 points. Pro basketball’s 2000 point club has operated under these rules for decades, unlike some of the "clubs" in other major sports. For instance, when Jim Brown first rushed for over 1000 yards he did it in a 12 game season, necessitating an average of better than 83 yards per game; today’s running backs can crank out 1000 yards in a 16 game season by averaging just 62.5 ypg.
There were no 2000 point scorers in basketball’s early years for two reasons: the season was shorter in length and the lack of a 24 second shot clock led to a lot of stalling, which greatly reduced scoring. The NBA lengthened the season to 72 games in 1953-54 and introduced the shot clock in 1954-55. In 1957-58, George Yardley of the Detroit Pistons became the first member of the 2000 point club, leading the league with 2001 points (27.8 ppg). That was by far the best season of the Hall of Famer’s seven year NBA career. He retired two years later at the age of 31 and started an engineering company. It was not uncommon at that time for NBA players--even All-Stars--to retire young because they could make more money in private business than they could in the NBA.
Bob Pettit was the only 2000 point scorer in 1958-59 (2105 points, 29.2 ppg), the first of five times that he scored 2000 points in a season. The 2000 point club’s roster expanded greatly in the 1960s when Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson and Elgin Baylor arrived in the league. Chamberlain became the first rookie to score 2000 points and he went on to score at least 2000 points in each of his first seven seasons. Chamberlain still has the two highest single season point totals ever and four of the top five. Robertson entered the NBA a year after Chamberlain did and also scored at least 2000 points in each of his first seven seasons. Robertson and Karl Malone are the only NBA or ABA players to have at least six 2000 point seasons without winning a single scoring title; that is a result of their careers overlapping the careers of Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan respectively. Baylor had five 2000 point seasons and would have had many more had he not missed games due to military service and some serious knee injuries.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar tied Chamberlain and Robertson’s mark in 1976-77 with his seventh 2000 point season. Jabbar established a new standard by recording his eighth and ninth 2000 point seasons in 1979-80 and 1980-81, by which time he was 34, the oldest player yet to accomplish this; that feat was later surpassed by Alex English (35), Michael Jordan (35) and Karl Malone (36). Jordan’s 11 2000 point seasons were the most of all-time for just two years before Malone recorded his 12th such season. Jordan lost nearly two whole seasons to his minor league baseball career and most of a third season because of a broken foot or else he would likely have notched 14 2000 point seasons. English broke Chamberlain and Robertson’s record by stringing together eight consecutive 2000 point seasons but Malone later tallied 11 in a row; he might have run that number to 13 if not for the lockout that shortened the 1999 season to 50 games. Jordan’s best streak of seven in a row was ended by his first retirement and Dominique Wilkins’ string of seven straight was snapped after he ruptured his Achilles; he came back from that injury and posted one more 2000 point season.
Julius Erving began his career in the ABA, scoring more than 2000 points in each of his first five seasons, the most 2000 point seasons by an ABA player. He added two more 2000 point seasons after the NBA/ABA merger in 1976-77 and narrowly missed having a third. Rick Barry, the only player to win scoring titles in both leagues, had five 2000 point seasons, three in the NBA and two in the ABA; injuries and the season that he was forced to sit out before he could jump leagues cost him four more chances during his prime years.
Only two of the ten players with the highest regular season scoring averages of all-time--Michael Jordan and George Gervin--also had at least six 2000 point seasons. That is a good indication of how difficult it is to maintain that level of scoring production while avoiding injuries. Not including the abbreviated 1999 season, there has been at least one 2000 point scorer every season since 1957-58. More than two months into the 2006-07 season, 13 players were averaging at least 24.4 ppg; if they had been able to keep up that pace and avoid injuries then a new record for most 2000 point scorers in a single season would have been established, eclipsing 1988-89 (10 players). However, injuries to several players took a heavy toll down the stretch, resulting in just four players reaching 2000 points: Kobe Bryant (2430, 31.6 ppg), Gilbert Arenas (2105, 28.4 ppg), LeBron James (2132, 27.3 ppg) and Vince Carter (2070, 25.2 ppg). No rookie came close to scoring 2000 points in 2006-07 but that is not surprising; only 14 rookies in NBA/ABA history have scored 2000 points and the last rookie to do it was Michael Jordan in 1984-85.
In 2005-06, Bryant produced the seventh highest point total ever (2832). He has had four 2000 point seasons but would probably have had several more were it not for injuries that forced him to miss at least 14 games in three different years. Tracy McGrady has had three 2000 point seasons and three other years during which injuries prevented him from reaching that level. Vince Carter scored 2000 points in his second and third seasons and then battled injuries for three straight years. In 2005-06 he scored 1911 points before once again joining the 2000 point club with his 2006-07 effort.
There are many great scorers in the NBA today but Bryant, Allen Iverson, Shaquille O’Neal and Paul Pierce are the only active scorers who have had four 2000 point seasons. O’Neal has not had one since 2000-01 and will not likely ever come close to that total again. A foot injury caused Pierce to fall short of 2000 points in 2006-07. Iverson got off to a great start in 2006-07 but he cooled off a bit after being traded to Denver, plus he missed 17 games for a variety of reasons.
Carmelo Anthony had his first 2000 point season in 2005-06 but his 15 game suspension for fighting wrecked his chances of scoring 2000 points in 2006-07. LeBron James has scored 2000 points in each of the last three seasons, while Dwyane Wade had his first 2000 point season in 2005-06. Wade was on target for a 2000 point season in 2006-07 before he suffered season-ending injuries. James and Wade are young enough that they may rewrite the record books in this category eventually, but history shows that even the greatest players find it difficult to stay healthy and productive enough to regularly crank out 2000 point seasons--and they will need a decade of good health and exceptional performance to catch Karl Malone.
Pro Basketball's 2000 Point Club
Most 2000 Point Seasons All-Time
*--5 ABA, 2 NBA
Most 2000 Point Seasons (Active Players)
Most Single Season Points
Most Single Season Points (Rookies)
posted by David Friedman @ 3:39 AM