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One of the biggest arguments detractors of LeBron James have made during his pursuit of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time NBA scoring record is that it was easier for James because of the three-point shot.

So a 24-footer is easier than a dunk or the five- or 10-footers Kareem typically took? Okay, cool. Just making sure I’ve got that genius logic worked out.

Now, it’s obvious that LeBron was able to get to the record more quickly because of the three-pointer. However, to say it was easier is just irresponsible. So let’s put that to bed.

But just for kicks, let’s see where James would rank had he never made a single three-pointer throughout his illustrious career.

Where would LeBron James rank on the all-time NBA scoring list without three-pointers?

LeBron James during a Lakers-Suns matchup in May 2021
LeBron James | Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Following the Los Angeles Lakers‘ matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night, LeBron James now has 38,390 regular-season points for his career, breaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record of 38,387.


Let’s Not Forget LeBron James Technically Became the NBA’s All-Time Leading Scorer a While Ago

In 1,410 career regular-season games with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, and the Lakers, James has made 2,237 three-pointers, good for ninth on the all-time list. So let’s say LeBron never attempted a single three-pointer during his career, turning those threes into two-point shots.

Using basic math, we simply subtract 2,237 points, giving us a new total of 36,153. Here’s how the scoring list shakes out in that scenario.

  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 38,387
  • Karl Malone: 36,928
  • LeBron James: 36,153
  • Kobe Bryant: 33,643
  • Michael Jordan: 32,292

Now let’s pretend the three-pointer never existed. As every member of the top five made at least one during their respective careers (Kareem made precisely one), let’s see what the numbers look like then.

So as you can see, LeBron doesn’t drop that far in any scenario. And as he’s averaged approximately 713 made field goals and 412 made free throws per season, James would have broken Kareem’s record anyway — and still would have done it in fewer games.