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Thursday, March 24, 2022

Examining Pro Basketball's 30,000 Point Club

Pro basketball's 30,000 point club has admitted just eight members in 75 seasons (listed in current ranking order): Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (the regular season career scoring leader from 1984-present), LeBron James, Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Dirk Nowitzki, Wilt Chamberlain (the regular season career scoring leader from 1966-84), and Julius Erving. When Chamberlain retired after the 1973 season, he was the lone member of the 30,000 point club, and only a handful of players had scored at least 20,000 regular season points. It took a decade for Abdul-Jabbar to become the 30,000 point club's second member. In 1987, Erving became the third member--and the first "midsize" player to top the 30,000 point mark. 

For more than a decade, Abdul-Jabbar, Chamberlain, and Erving remained the club's only members. After Michael Jordan's 1998 retirement, Karl Malone passed Jordan on the career scoring list and then became the 30,000 point club's fourth member. Jordan came out of retirement and joined the club during his brief time with the Washington Wizards. Bryant joined the 30,000 point club in 2012; he, Jordan, and Erving remain the only "midsize" players who have been brilliant enough and durable enough to score more than 30,000 points. How significant is that? If a player plays 80 games a year for 10 straight years while averaging 25 ppg he will "only" be 10,000 points short of the 30,000 point club!

In 2017, Nowitzki became the first 30,000 point scorer who was born outside of the United States, and in 2018 James set the record as the youngest player to score 30,000 regular season points. 

Each 30,000 point club member grabbed at least 6500 rebounds, and Nowitzki is the only 30,000 point club member who did not notch at least 4000 assists. 

Chamberlain is the only 30,000 point club member who tallied at least 20,000 rebounds (his 23,924 career rebounds is a record that is unlikely to ever be broken). Abdul-Jabbar is the only other 30,000 point club member who also had at least 15,000 rebounds (17,440, fourth on pro basketball's all-time list behind Chamberlain, Bill Russell, and Moses Malone). Abdul-Jabbar, Malone, and Erving were the first three 30,000 point club members who had at least 10,000 rebounds and at least 5000 assists. 

James recently became the first player with at least 30,000 regular season points, at least 10,000 regular season rebounds, and at least 10,000 regular season assists. The 30,000 point club member who ranks second in assists behind James is Bryant (6306), so while it is true that James is not a pass first player it is also true that he is a very gifted passer, particularly for someone whose primary skill set strength is scoring. James is not the first great scorer who was also a great passer but his combination of durability with consistent productivity in both departments is rare. The assist statistic is inherently subjective, but there is no doubt that James performs at an elite level as both a scorer and as a playmaker. 

Abdul-Jabbar and Jordan lead the 30,000 point club with six championships each, followed by Bryant (five), James (four), Erving (three), Chamberlain (two), and Nowitzki (one). Malone is the lone 30,000 point club member who did not win a title. 

Abdul-Jabbar won six regular season MVPs plus two Finals MVPs. Jordan won five regular season MVPs and six Finals MVPs. Chamberlain won four regular season MVPs and one Finals MVP (the Finals MVP was first handed out after the 10th of Chamberlain's 14 seasons). Erving won four regular season MVPs and two Finals MVPs. James won four regular season MVPs and four Finals MVPs. Malone won two regular season MVPs and no Finals MVPs. Bryant won one regular season MVP and two Finals MVPs. Nowitzki won one regular season MVP and one Finals MVP.

Who will join the 30,000 point club next? Only five active players other than James have scored at least 20,000 career regular season points: Carmelo Anthony (28,243), Kevin Durant (25,248), James Harden (23,305), Russell Westbrook (23,164), and Chris Paul (20,844). Anthony, who will turn 38 in May, would need two healthy seasons at his current scoring pace to join the 30,000 point club. Considering age and current productivity levels, Durant looks like the best candidate to be the next member of the 30,000 point club.

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posted by David Friedman @ 11:30 PM



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