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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

LeBron James is NOT the First Player to Rank Among the Top 10 Career Leaders in Scoring and Assists

Contrary to recent headlines and reports, LeBron James is NOT the first player to rank among the top 10 career leaders in scoring and assists. James, who is fifth on the career ABA/NBA scoring list, recently passed Andre Miller to rank 10th all-time in career ABA/NBA assists. This is, without question, a tremendous accomplishment. However, to rephrase a quote from James' past, he is not the first, or second, or third, or fourth, or even fifth player to achieve this distinction.

The inaccurate headlines and stories about this particular subject are symptomatic of a larger issue: basketball history is not well understood and well reported. It is worth recognizing the players who accomplished the dual scoring/playmaking feat prior to James; these players are often not given the credit that they deserve, in part because their accomplishments and milestones are not widely known. 

Rather than going back too far in NBA history, which would provide a small sample size of data, we can begin by looking at the rankings after the 1965-66 season (the NBA's 20th campaign). At that time, Bob Cousy not only ranked first in career assists (6945) but he also ranked fourth in all-time scoring (16,955 points). How many fans and commentators are aware that Cousy was not just the best playmaker of his era but that he was also a big-time scorer?

In 1966, Oscar Robertson ranked second in career assists (4923) and eighth in career scoring (13,998 points). Richie Guerin ranked sixth in career assists (3755) and 10th in career scoring (13,426 points). Dolph Schayes ranked eighth in career assists (3072) and third in career scoring (18,438 points).

Moving ahead by a decade, after the 1975-76 season, Oscar Robertson ranked first in career assists (9887) and second in career scoring (26,710 points). Jerry West ranked fourth in career assists (6238) and third in career scoring (25,192 points). John Havlicek ranked fifth in career assists (5386) and fourth in career scoring (23,678 points). Wilt Chamberlain ranked seventh in career assists (4643) and first in career scoring (31,419 points). Hal Greer ranked eighth in career assists (4540) and sixth in career scoring (21,586 points).

After the 1985-86 season, Oscar Robertson ranked first in career assists (9887) and sixth in career scoring (26,710 points). Jerry West ranked fifth in career assists (6238) and 10th in career scoring (25,192 points). John Havlicek ranked sixth in career assists (6114) and eighth in career scoring (26,395 points). Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ranked eighth in career assists (5248) and first in career scoring (35,108 points).

In addition, Julius Erving barely missed the cut, ranking third in career scoring (29,021 points) and 11th in career assists (4985, just 55 behind Walt Frazier); Erving retired after the 1986-87 season and he briefly enjoyed the distinction of ranking in the top 10 in both categories (third in career scoring, 10th in career assists), before being passed on the assists list by his former teammate, Maurice Cheeks.

LeBron James is not even close to being the first--or the only--player to rank among the top 10 career leaders in both scoring and assists. Listing the players who accomplished this feat before James does not in any way diminish his greatness; it just sets the record straight, while also providing overdue recognition to a select list of all-time great players who preceded James.

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posted by David Friedman @ 1:28 PM

6 comments

6 Comments:

At Thursday, February 28, 2019 1:50:00 PM, Blogger Jordan Ikeda said...

David,

I am surprised at your lack of NBA history awareness. I find it beyond belief you don't know that the NBA narrative didn't truly exist until Lebron James entered the league in 2003. Whatever the Chosen One allows or speaks into existence -- is all that matters. Shame on you for bringing up all of these other players that did amazing things. While you think you are providing facts and highlighting the achievements of those that came before, all you are actually doing is dulling the shine of Lebron, the most historically significant addition to the game of hoops since the invention of the actual basketball.

In all seriousness, these posts specifically are why I keep coming back here. Cheers!

 
At Thursday, February 28, 2019 4:42:00 PM, Blogger Kaos said...

--
However, to rephrase a quote from James' past, he is not the first, or second, or third, or fourth, or even fifth player to achieve this distinction.
--

Sorry, I hate to essentially meme-comment, but this quote above is too savage to let slide without according it due credit. Brilliant line and excellent article as always David.

 
At Friday, March 01, 2019 12:04:00 AM, Anonymous Eric said...

Thank you for keeping us well informed, David.

Jordan's satirical comment above is the well articulated version of what the fans now spew based off their heavily biased, falsified mainstream media coverage.

 
At Friday, March 01, 2019 3:39:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Jordan:

I am glad that you enjoyed the article.

I was more surprised than I should be regarding how many different media outlets published incorrect information about James' milestone. It is a tremendous accomplishment but James is not close to being the first or only player to achieve this distinction.

 
At Friday, March 01, 2019 3:41:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Kaos:

Thank you. The retort was the first thing that popped into my head after I started compiling a list of how many players accomplished this feat before James. Once my list got past five, the quip fit perfectly.

 
At Friday, March 01, 2019 3:47:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Eric:

I am happy any time that I get an opportunity to remind people about just how great some of the players from prior eras were.

A couple days ago, someone who had not yet seen this website asked me who I would pick as the greatest basketball player ever. I explained that, for a variety of reasons, it is difficult to pick just one player. I talked about my Pantheon and my notion that there is a select group of players who could be considered greatest of all-time candidates. Asked specifically about James, I noted that the case for James revolves around his combination of size, speed and basketball skill. James is as big as Karl Malone but he can play point guard, small forward and power forward. In small ball lineups, he can even play center. Of course, the case against James revolves around his dismal record in the NBA Finals and his mystifying tendency to quit and/or be passive in key situations against elite teams.

 

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