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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

LeBron James Becomes Eighth--and Youngest--Member of the Elite 30,000 Point Club

LeBron James scored 28 points in Cleveland's 114-102 loss to the San Antonio Spurs last night, becoming the eighth member of pro basketball's elite 30,000 point club. James, at 33 years and 24 days old, nipped Kobe Bryant (34 years and 104 days), as the youngest player to join the club. You may have read or heard media reports stating that James is the club's seventh member; it is an ongoing shame/scandal that the NBA and most media members who cover the league refuse to recognize ABA statistics in general and Julius Erving's statistics in particular.

As I wrote last year after Dirk Nowitzki joined the club, "Julius "Dr. J" Erving is the most overlooked member of the club, because many media outlets inexplicably fail to account for his ABA points--but Erving deserves recognition as the first 'mid-size' player to break the 30,000 point barrier, a feat only accomplished by centers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain at the time that Erving joined the club in 1987; indeed, it would be 13 years after Erving retired before power forward Karl Malone became the club's fourth member. Soon after that, Michael Jordan (in his second comeback, this time as a Wizard) became the club's fifth member and just second 'mid-size' player, a feat matched about a decade later by the club's third and final 'mid-size' member, Kobe Bryant."

The complete list of 30,000 point club members consists entirely of players who are recognized by one name: Kareem, Mailman, Kobe, Jordan, Wilt, Dirk, Dr. J, LeBron.

Scoring 30,000 points requires tremendous skill and durability. It is unfortunate that the media consistently fails to recognize Erving's accomplishment but perhaps James reaching this milestone will be the first (or, hopefully, final) step in the process of shattering the myth that James is a "pass first" player. James has a legitimate chance to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's record (38,387) to become the sport's all-time leading scorer; barring an injury that causes him to miss a significant number of games, James--who currently sports a 26.8 ppg scoring average and ranks fifth all-time at 27.1 ppg--needs to average about 25 ppg over the next four seasons to supplant Abdul-Jabbar. James has averaged at least 25 ppg every season since his rookie campaign and he is showing no signs of slowing down, at least as a scorer.

James is without question a great passer but it is equally without question that he is a great scorer. Many of his fellow 30,000 point club members were great passers (and all of them were at least good passers) but none of them were ever considered "pass first" players. James deserves hearty congratulations for this great accomplishment but the media members who cover pro basketball need to cover the sport's history accurately and completely, without randomly disregarding some statistics and without creating false narratives that do not match a player's resume/skill set.

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posted by David Friedman @ 7:28 AM



At Wednesday, January 24, 2018 12:26:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

I get so annoyed every time I read one of these stories that ignores Doc/the ABA. Thank you for consistently calling it out.

At Wednesday, January 24, 2018 7:38:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


You’re welcome.

I sounded the HoF horn for Roger Brown, Artis Gilmore and several others until they were belatedly inducted and I will sound the horn until all ABA stats are officially recognized by the NBA and its media partners

At Thursday, January 25, 2018 12:31:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Non-story. The NBA keeps their stats to NBA, not NBA+ABA, just the way it is. The ABA joined the NBA, with minimal teams at that, not the other way around. When they say 7th member of the 30,000 point club in the NBA, that's accurate. Maybe people like JVG should acknowledge Dr. J, though. But, let's stop with the 'scandal' comments. Dr. J's stats were obviously inflated some in the ABA, too. He never reached his lowest ABA scoring average in the NBA despite entering the NBA in his prime.

At Friday, January 26, 2018 2:08:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


When the NFL and AFL merged, the stats were also merged. That is a precedent that the NBA should have followed. If this was not a legit merger and the ABA was not a legit league then why weren't ABA players eligible for Rookie of the Year honors in 1976-77?

ABA players dominated individually and collectively for several years after the merger (look at All-NBA, All-Star and MVP selections, not to mention players having key roles on championship teams).

Saying that Dr. J should have put up better NBA stats because he was in his "prime" ignores both the individual context of his career as well as the career paths of other great players. Take away the first five years of the careers of--for example--Wilt, Kareem, Bird, Magic, MJ and you take away some of their best seasons. It is not unusual that Dr. J put up his best scoring and rebounding numbers in his first five seasons.

Also, in the NBA Doc joined a strong team and he willingly sacrificed individual numbers to pursue a greater goal. I am not sure that this was the best decision but it is obvious that he could have averaged more ppg during those seasons had he wanted to do so. The issue was not that the NBA was a stronger league but rather that his role had changed. In Doc's early 30s, Philly Coach Billy Cunningham increased Doc's role and Doc posted several MVP caliber seasons, including 1980-81 when he became the first non-center to win the NBA MVP since Oscar Robertson.

At Saturday, January 27, 2018 11:59:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I look at that list and Lebron is the most disappointing. One of the things I like about your analysis is that you deal with the intangibles and don't get too caught up in number-crunching. You understand that so much of sports is psychology and willpower, not just physical prowess and statistical numerology.

The thing about MJ and Kobe that make them so much better than Lebron - to deal with three names on the list - is that they were able to inspire "angry joy" in their teammates. I got the term from Vance Packard's 1962 book "The Pyramid Climbers," an analysis of the corporate rat race, where, speaking of executive leadership, he defines "angry joy" as "a profound awe, a deep respect among business associates." Packard uses the hero of the western novel "A Distant Trumpet" (later a film as well) as an example, that the "angry joy" that the troopers felt in "belonging to" Lieutenant Hazard was inspired by his "utter, single-minded integrity and devotion to honor and duty as he saw them."

MJ and Kobe were single-minded about winning championships to the point of monomania. Their teammates, for the most part, saw and respected their discipline. They were supremely-talented Lieutenant Hazards on the basketball court.

As you've pointed out on several occasions, Lebron, however, prefers "chill mode." As we are seeing in the melodramatic unraveling of the Cavs these days, there is no angry joy in Cleveland. I think that the bottom line reason is the failure of Lebron's leadership. Hard to imagine MJ or Kobe tolerating the dysfunction that Kyrie, to his credit, walked away from. Lebron is not an MJ/Magic composite so much as a Mailman/Pippen mash-up. He's more like a vastly more skilled Mailman, from a psychological standpoint. Another Lebron failure was not allowing Kyrie, the real alpha dog of the Cavs, to run the point. Unlike Lebron, I could see Kyrie inspiring "angry joy" in Cleveland.

At Saturday, January 27, 2018 1:21:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I agree with your overall points and your specific comparisons of MJ, Kobe and LeBron. Kyrie definitely has that MJ/Kobe mentality but he lacks their size and overall skill set.

Pippen was a great leader and teammate but he lacked the full scoring skill set that MJ and Kobe had.


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