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Saturday, February 12, 2022

LeBron James Sets Scoring Record Invented by ESPN as Lakers Lose Again

Per ESPN, LeBron James just broke an unofficial record that no one had ever talked about prior to tonight: James has now scored more points in the regular season and playoffs combined than anyone in pro basketball history. I cannot recall hearing anyone ever speak about this "record" before tonight, but congratulations to James for breaking a record that is not in any record book. As a side note--and it is a side note for James--James' L.A. Lakers lost 117-115 to the Golden State Warriors. James' plus/minus number of -11 was the worst for any Laker as James fired up a game-high 27 field goal attempts while making just nine. James scored 26 points, he had a game-high 15 rebounds, and he tied Stephen Curry for game-high honors with eight assists. What does all of this mean? James is an incredibly talented basketball player who is posting gaudy box score statistics as a 37 year old--and James is laser focused on becoming the all-time regular season career scoring leader (which is an actual record, not a record made up tonight by ESPN).

James is attacking the hoop less than ever, averaging a career-low 5.6 free throw attempts per game, and he is shooting more three pointers than ever, averaging a career-high 7.8 three point attempts per game, 1.5 more than he has ever averaged before. Overall, James is averaging 21.0 field goal attempts per game, his highest number since 2007-08 when he won the scoring title. The fairy tale that James is doing everything that he can to help the Lakers win and that he does not care at all about the career regular season scoring record is hilarious but implausible.  

I am not opposed to James chasing the scoring record; it is natural and understandable that he wants to break the sport's most prestigious record, a mark currently held by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and previously held by Wilt Chamberlain. I just reject the media narratives that James is a pass-first player and that James is always focused on team success more so than aggrandizing himself. Contrary to those narratives, James has always been a great scorer, and his scoring is an asset for his team when he attacks the hoop; also, James has always known how to manipulate his numbers (and influence media members who value having access to him) to support the narrative that he is doing all that he can do to help his team win. Who can blame a loss on a player who put up 26-15-8? James' talent is undeniable, but if you watched the Warriors-Lakers game with understanding then you know the difference between playing to win, and playing to accumulate statistics; that is not even to say that James played poorly--but it is to say that James could have increased the Lakers' win probability by attacking the hoop more often, and by encouraging Davis (who admires James) to attack the hoop more often as well.

A lot of nonsense is said and written about the Lakers' offense, but even with James misfiring from all angles the Lakers scored 115 points while shooting .466 from the field and .407 from three point range. The Lakers had just eight turnovers, four of which James committed. No, offense is not and has not been the problem. The problems are defense and rebounding. When you score 115 points on the road you should win, but the Lakers lost because of their leaky defense and their subpar rebounding; the smaller Warriors outrebounded the Lakers, 50-47.

According to the box score, Anthony Davis played 35 minutes, but he was invisible for long stretches, finishing with 16 points, seven rebounds, and four assists while shooting 5-13 from the field. Two years ago, he fulfilled his dream of winning a title while playing alongside LeBron James, and no one can be sure when Davis will play hard again.

It will be difficult to pin this loss on Russell Westbrook, but I am sure that media members will find a way to discredit Westbrook's 19 points on 7-13 field goal shooting, seven rebounds, five assists, and one turnover with a +2 plus/minus number (best among Laker starters).

Stephen Curry, widely recognized as the most powerful gravitational force in our solar system other than the sun, scored 24 points while shooting 7-17 from the field (including 1-8 from three point range). The star of the game was Klay Thompson, who scored a game-high 33 points on 12-22 field goal shooting, including 5-9 from behind the arc. Thompson poured in 16 points in the fourth quarter.

The Warriors are a deep and talented team that will be even deeper and more talented after the injured Draymond Green returns from injury. The Lakers are a top-heavy team whose best player has written off this season from a team standpoint; James recently said publicly that the Lakers are not on the same level as the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks and that the Lakers as presently constructed cannot reach that level. What James did not say--but his actions speak loudly--is that he is going to chase the career scoring record with all of his might while figuring out how to make sure that he is not blamed for the Lakers falling short of preseason expectations.

How good would the Lakers be if James consistently played defense, if he consistently attacked the hoop on offense, and if he figured out how to bring out the best in his teammates as opposed to viewing them as the cheering section for his record-chasing? How good would the Lakers be if Davis consistently played defense, if he did not act like he is fatally allergic to posting up, and if he showed even the slightest interest in dominating smaller, less talented players? 

It is sad that it appears we will never find out the answers to those questions, because James and Davis are determined to not play hard enough and smart enough to provide those answers.

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posted by David Friedman @ 11:55 PM



At Sunday, February 13, 2022 7:11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well covered David - ESPN again levelled up their golden child. I want to emphasis your point again and I hope fans understand the astonishing ability of LeBron James to put up gaudy stats that do not always translate into winning. But casual fans will see it as LeBron James has no help and the blame is on the coach/his teammates and most recently all on Westbrook, which is absolutely unfair and outrageous. The fact is and his fans do not see it but LeBron James tries so damn hard wanting to be acknowledged and liked by the public.

I find it hard to comprehend someone as great as he is, straight after a poor performance (disregard his stats) especially in the closing minutes of last night's game has the audacity to post on Instagram that he broke this record invented by ESPN. What does that say about him? To me it says he is all about himself and doesn't care about his team's success. When have we seen another athlete on the same level as him take the initiative and actively post on social media to brag about the records that they have broken? Let alone after taking an L. Yet all these casual fans and so called media experts call this guy the GOAT, the ultimate winner, team player and leader blah blah blah. The only GOAT he is ever getting mentioned in the same sentence as his name is "stat-padder".

At Sunday, February 13, 2022 9:00:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you think about it, LeBron's behavior over the years is quite symbolic of our overall era, which is not really about actually accomplishing things but more about shaping perceptions and PR.

If he had been doing what Kobe was accused of back in the days (i.e. shooting "too much") he would have both already broken that record and won more championships because 10-15 years ago there was no force on Earth that could stop him when he decided to muscle his way to the basket (while yesterday he missed half a dozen easy layups in the paint under not all that much pressure).

But he spent those years scoring 27 PPG on 18-20 shots per game, even though the optimal strategy for his team was that he takes 25 shots per game primarily on drives and post ups, scoring 33+ PPG, and he also often didn't play hard in the playoffs, exactly in the moments he had to take over, resulting in that long series of failures there that you have documented and dissected so well over the years.

This was enabled by the media, which focused on how his passing and rebounding combined with his scoring made for such impressive and "efficient" stats that there was no way to blame him for any failures.

And that has continued to this day, only now he is indeed playing selfishly and for the numbers and once again hurting his team, but again, that is being enabled by finding other scrapegoats.

Anthony Davis not playing hard may well be a function of all that, he doesn't strike me as someone who has the internal drive and determination to push himself to the limit, so a lot depends on what environment you put him in and who is there to set an example for how things should be done.

At Monday, February 14, 2022 12:44:00 AM, Anonymous Kenny said...

Hello David,
The only place in which playoff points are not considered when talking about top scorers is here. Everywhere else in the world, regular season and playoffs points are considered to determine who scored the most in history.
The logical choice would be to always include playoff points when talking about points, assists, rebounds, etc, during the professional career of a player.
Do you oppose that line of thinking? Is that because of what we are used to here or because it was a record that most of us were not aware of?

At Monday, February 14, 2022 2:07:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Thank you. It can--and is--simultaneously true that LeBron James is one of the greatest players of all-time and that he is overrated in the sense that many media members do not recognize, understand, or report about how much stat-padding he does at the expense of team success. It is useful to keep in mind that the reporters who write and talk about him the most are also the reporters who he has granted special access, and with that access comes a price--I doubt that anyone who consistently spoke the truth about him would get such prime access. Informed commentary that does not come at the price of access with compromised objectivity is superior to "insider" commentary that is tainted by bias.

At Monday, February 14, 2022 2:13:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Yes, and that is the point that I have made about James for a long time. The true measure of greatness--and of selfishness--is not just counting a player's shot attempts, but rather looking at what the player is doing in the context of what his team needs. Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant were focused on winning championships. LeBron James wants to win championships to some extent, but his primary focus has always been on creating and distributing narratives (or having narratives distributed on his behalf by cooperative media members).

James is so talented that he can put up numbers that look great but that do not withstand careful observation. He is unquestionably a very talented player, but team success is not always his primary focus. This is very difficult for casual fans to understand, and media members are reluctant to delve into this--if they even understand it--because too much truth-telling could be hazardous to their opportunity not only to have access to James but also their opportunity to have access to players who are affiliated with James via Klutch Sports and other business ventures.

At Monday, February 14, 2022 2:23:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I don't know what "here" you are talking about. Are you referencing the NBA, other sports leagues, or the United States?

The funny thing is that whatever you mean, you are wrong!

The NBA has never kept combined records for the regular season and playoffs. For the league's entire history, there have been separate records for regular season, playoffs, and the NBA Finals. Playoff records include Finals statistics, but playoff records are never combined with regular season records. Even unofficial record keeping sites online (such as BasketballReference) do not combine regular season and playoff statistics.

The "record" that James just set was made up by ESPN on the night that James set the "record." James and ESPN have incredible self-promotion synergy (it is not accidental that his tone-deaf "Decision" was covered exclusively by ESPN).

I cannot speak for every sports league in the world, but I know for a fact that the NFL and MLB keep separate records for the regular season and the playoffs.

I cannot speak for every country in the world, but I am not aware of countries that combine regular season and playoff records into one category.

This is not about "logic." This is about ESPN creating a fake "record" in order to hype up their business partner LeBron James in general, and their telecast of that particular game.

However, to answer your question, combining regular season and playoff records is not logical. Regular season competition is against every team in the league in one format, while playoff competition is in a series format against specific teams. It is even becoming less meaningful to compare playoff statistics from different eras because the playoff format has changed and the postseason has been expanded to include many more series and games.

No one was "aware" of the record that James supposedly set because it did not--and still does not--exist. ESPN cannot speak a "record" into existence, much like "Screamin' A" Smith cannot become competent just by repeatedly yelling nonsense.

At Tuesday, February 15, 2022 11:44:00 AM, Anonymous Cyber said...

I know for rugby (union and league) and Aussie rules football that they combine both RS and PS, I'm pretty sure this also applies to domestic soccer leagues outside of the MLS. It's largely a North American concept to separate the two. I see pros and cons to both but find it hilarious that the US media didn't care about this until LeBron was very close

At Tuesday, February 15, 2022 3:10:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


As I said, I cannot speak for other countries and/or for sports that I do not cover. However, I know for a fact that in the history of the NBA no one ever spoke of the combined regular season/playoff scoring record until ESPN invented this "record" for LeBron. This "record" does not appear in any NBA record book or on any reputable website listing NBA records.

My point is not to argue the "pros and cons" of whether such a record should exist; my point is that the record never existed until ESPN created it to promote LeBron. If ESPN is going to create a record out of thin air then at least the self-proclaimed "Worldwide Leader" should provide background and context about the previous record holders and who is in the top 10 or top 20 now. Instead, ESPN gave us a fake "record" to convince gullible viewers that LeBron must be the "GOAT."

Anyone who is familiar with the championship resumes of Russell, Kareem, MJ, and Kobe (to name just four Pantheon members who won more titles with better Finals winning percentages than LeBron) knows better than to call LeBron the "GOAT" (and good arguments could be made to rank other Pantheon members ahead of LeBron as well).

At Friday, February 18, 2022 3:27:00 AM, Anonymous Kenny said...

What do you think about this, David? Is this a record or not?

"CHICAGO -- Chicago Bulls All-Star forward DeMar DeRozan stayed on a roll offensively heading into the All-Star break and set an NBA record in Wednesday's 125-118 victory over the Sacramento Kings.

DeRozan scored 38 points on 16-for-27 (59%) shooting Wednesday, making him the first player in NBA history to score 35 points while shooting better than 50% from the field in seven consecutive games. DeRozan surpassed a mark set by Wilt Chamberlain, who put together two such streaks of six games in a row, the last of which came in 1963.

"Just to be in the record books along with staples of basketball history -- [I'm] speechless," DeRozan said following Wednesday's game. "As a kid, as a fan of the history of the game, being in the league as long as I've been in the league, things like that continue to make me even more humble."

In an era in which "games with 35 points and 50% FG shooting" are mentioned, I believe total points scored by a player, by combining regular season and playoff points, which is the norm in professional leagues outside the United States, should not surprise anyone.

I understand you are familiar with Oscar Schmidt, Drazen Petrovic, and Arvydas Sabonis. When discussing their numbers, there is no distinction between reg. season and playoffs. By the way, ESPN was not the first outlet to notice LeBron was reaching that record. European sites were all aware of combined stats.

At Friday, February 18, 2022 9:49:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


It is not unusual or new to reference streaks combining a minimum amount of points scored combined with a minimum field goal percentage. I have seen such streaks referenced before. Wilt Chamberlain holds many such records.

The norm "in professional leagues outside the United States" is not relevant to a conversation about the NBA, which is a professional league based in the United States and comprised entirely of U.S. teams (other than the Toronto Raptors). Of course I am familiar with Schmidt, Petrovic, and Sabonis. Their records in different leagues in different countries have nothing to do with the NBA.

The official NBA record book, going back to the league's inception, has never combined regular season and playoff records. No reputable website that I know of combines NBA regular season and playoff records (and, even if a website did, that would not be official, because only the league's record book is official).

You seem to be stubbornly missing the point. The "record" that LeBron James set never existed and never was discussed in OFFICIAL NBA records until ESPN invented the record on the same day that James and his team appeared on their network. I have yet to see ESPN provide a list of the top 10 or top 20 in this category, let alone a history of the evolution of this "record." ESPN did this for two reasons: (1) Create more hype about LeBron James, and (2) create more hype about the game that they broadcast.

What ESPN and the NBA should do is combine ABA and NBA records, as the NFL did with AFL records after the leagues merged. MLB is in the process of making Negro League records official. Recognizing the accomplishments of players from neglected or forgotten professional leagues is more important and meaningful than creating a fake "record." I also wonder if ESPN created this "record" for James out of concern that James' body may not hold up enough for him to set the real record for career regular season points. James is not far away from that record IF he can keep scoring at his current pace and IF he stays healthy, but we have seen other great players get close to career records only to fall just short due to age/injuries (Franco Harris chasing Jim Brown's career REGULAR SEASON rushing record immediately comes to mind).

I think that combining regular season and playoff records makes little sense, for the reasons that I described in my earlier response to you, but the larger point is that this had never been done in NBA history until ESPN did it for James. ESPN cannot just create a "record" out of thin air merely because the network feels obligated to promote James.

At Friday, February 18, 2022 11:06:00 PM, Anonymous Kenny said...

Besides Franco Harris, I also remember when most of us believed Karl Malone was going to reach Kareem, until his body failed him after the 2004 playoffs in his only Lakers season.

Thanks for taking the time to read my messages and to respond to my comments. I really appreciate that.

Have a nice weekend, David.


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