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If Kareem Abdul-Jabbar isn’t the best to ever play in the NBA, he’s right up there. If the NBA’s all-time leading scorer played in the league today, he said he’s probably be keeping stats on the bench. The former Los Angeles Lakers star was a recent guest on Byron Scott’s Off the Dribble podcast and said he wouldn’t be the greatest fit for today’s NBA game.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar remains the NBA’s all-time leading scorer

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of the Los Angeles Lakers holds a trophy before an NBA game against the Sacramento Kings played on March 23, 1989, at Arco Arena in Sacramento, California. | Madison/Getty Images

He might not stay there much longer, but for now, no NBA player has scored more points than Abdul-Jabbar. While the retired Karl Malone is second on the list, the still-going-strong LeBron James is rapidly approaching. Abdul-Jabbar finished his Hall of Fame career with 38,387 points, while Malone has 36,928. James, third on the list, begins the 2021-2022 season with 35,367.

The former Lakers star earned many of those points from his famous skyhook. The 19-time NBA All-Star played 20 seasons in the NBA, the last 14 with the Lakers. The Milwaukee Bucks selected him with the No. 1 pick in the 1969 NBA Draft.

He won six NBA championships and was a six-time MVP. Much of his time on the court was playing with his back to the basket as a traditional center. He recently sat down with Scott, his former Lakers teammate, and talked about what it might be like if he played in the NBA today.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar joked that playing in the NBA today might have him sitting on the bench

Recently, Abdul-Jabbar caught up with Scott, making an appearance on Scott’s Off the Dribble podcast. Scott asked the big man what he thought of the game today. Scott said during their time in the 1980s teams played “inside out.” Today, he said, the game is played “outside in” with the 3-point shot being a major weapon.

Abdul-Jabbar said adjusting to today’s run-and-gun game would make things tough for him.

“I think the 3-point shot has forced everybody to be versatile in the game,” he said. “Prior to the 3-point shot, as a center, I never left the paint. If I got a rebound on the defensive end, coach would say give it to the guard and go down to the offensive end and get in position for whatever play we’re going to run.

“Now, people learn how to play the game differently. The young man from Milwaukee — (Giannis) Antetokounmpo, oh my goodness. He gets it off the defensive board, and he’s almost seven feet. He turns into a guard and attacks the offensive end of the court.

“If I tried to do that, I would have been sitting on the bench. I would’ve been over there with John Black (Lakers former VP of public relations) keeping stats.”

Abdul-Jabbar said he’d have to make some serious adjustments to play today


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Abdul-Jabbar said he remembers a game against the Celtics during the NBA Finals when Boston’s Scott Wedman took charge. He came off the bench and shot lights out, draining multiple 3-pointers. That performance sticks with him, but today it’s typical of the way the game is played.

“I remember the guy the Celtics had on the bench — I forget his name,” he said before Scott reminded him it was Wedman. “Scott Wedman, he made seven 3-point shots. Everybody thought, geez, that’s a lot of 3-point shots. Now, they shoot 15 in a quarter. It’s really changed the game.”

Abdul-Jabbar knows what he would have to do in order to succeed today on the court.

“If I were playing, I’d have to work on the 3-point shot,” he said, “just to stretch the court to get my teammates open because I had to be guarded on the 3-point line.”

Scott reminded him that the big man did hit a 3-pointer in a game against the Phoenix Suns as the clock wound down. Abdul-Jabbar said he did remember that shot.

“I remember it because I was 1-for-13 (actually 1-for-18) in my career,” he said.