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It’s easy to lose track of the NBA record book. In most cases, we’re dealing with enormous four- and five-digit numbers, and unlike a sport like baseball, where raw numbers tend to dominate, basketball statistics largely deal in averages. I can’t tell you how many points Michael Jordan scored in his career off the top of my head … but I can tell you he averaged around 30 points per game.
So to make the process a bit easier, let’s dive into the NBA record book ahead of the new year. Who is going to make history in 2023? One player stands out, but there are plenty of milestones to be reached in the near future.
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The LeBron category
In case you’ve been living under a rock, LeBron James is very, very close to breaking the NBA’s all-time scoring record. As of this writing, he is 629 points behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time record of 38,387. At his current rate of 27.8 points per game, he is 23 games away from making history. Barring injuries, that would allow him to break the record on Feb. 9 against the Milwaukee Bucks.
That’s the biggest record LeBron is going to break this season, but he’s going to climb the ladder in several other key areas. James currently ranks sixth in NBA history with 10,211 assists. By the end of the season, he will likely be ranked fourth, passing Mark Jackson (10,334) and Steve Nash (10,335). He also ranks 10th in steals, but has a good chance to catch ninth-place Clyde Drexler, who is 43 steals ahead of him.
If you’re taking the longer view here, the biggest record left for James to chase after points is the all-time wins record. Thus far in his career, he has won 904 regular-season games. Abdul-Jabbar is the current record-holder at 1,074. James has a ways to go to catch him, but needs just 13 wins to pass Dirk Nowitzki in sixth place. If you include the playoffs, James already ranks fourth with 1,078 wins. Abdul-Jabbar has 1,228, so James has a ways to go to catch him, too, and probably won’t reach third-place Robert Parish (1,121) this season.
Everyone else: Points
We probably won’t see any new top 10 scorers this season … but there’s a slim chance we could. Carmelo Anthony is a meager 307 points behind Shaquille O’Neal for 10th in NBA history. The problem, as you likely guessed, is that Anthony is not currently employed. Maybe that changes. If it doesn’t, Anthony is stuck at No. 11.
Someone who isn’t stuck? Kevin Durant. At 26,484 points, he ranks 19th in NBA history. An attainable goal for this season would be Dan Issel at 27,482. He’s in 12th place with his ABA points included. Durant’s Nets have 49 games left this season. Durant would need to average roughly 20.4 points per game if he played in all of them to reach Issel. Even with some missed games built into the average, he should get there comfortably so long as he remains relatively healthy. Then, in future seasons, he will climb up the leaderboard.
Things get sparser after Durant. James Harden and Russell Westbrook are both making runs at the top 30. Chris Paul, Stephen Curry and DeMar DeRozan are both in the 40s. Curry has a shot at a much higher slot on this list, but for now, Durant and James are the players to watch.
Everyone else: Assists
James is trying to reach the top five in assists. Paul is already there. He currently ranks third with 11,159 assists, but he’s probably going to remain there for this season. He’ll catch Jason Kidd at 12,091 eventually, but for now, third place is where he’ll stay, and depending on how long the two of them play, he’ll likely be jockeying for position with James for the next several years. Nobody is catching John Stockton at a ridiculous 15,806 assists.
Westbrook is only 130 assists shy of the top 10, and will likely pass Gary Payton at some point in the next month or two. Harden is 44 assists shy of the top 25, but the problem is that he’s chasing an active player in Kyle Lowry. Both can guarantee themselves admission into the top 25 by passing Kevin Johnson at 6,711. Both will likely do this at some point during the season. No other active players are in the top 40.
Everyone else: Rebounds
Remember when the center position was dealing with such a drought that DeAndre Jordan was named to an All-NBA Team? Well, that drought had a pretty pronounced effect on the record books. As of right now, LeBron James ranks 40th in history with 10,412 career rebounds. He is the highest-ranked active player on the rebounding leaderboard. Jordan himself is just behind him at 43rd. The lone exception to this historic rebounding drought is Dwight Howard, who is currently in 11th, but as he’s playing in Taiwan right now, he probably won’t ever crack the top 10.
The Boston Celtics have the fewest losses in the NBA, but they’ve already lost their 10th game this season, guaranteeing that the 73-9 Warriors will hold onto the regular-season wins record for another year. A record Boston might break, though, is the offensive efficiency record. At 117.2 points per 100 possessions, the Celtics are right behind the 2021 Nets at 117.3 for the most efficient offense in NBA history. It should be noted, though, that this is a record that changes hands frequently. The Nets themselves broke a record set only a year earlier by the 2020 Mavericks.
Similarly, the Golden State Warriors are on pace to break the record for most 3-pointers in a season. They’re on pace to make 1,327 this season. The record is 1,323, which was set by the 2019 Rockets. However, with Stephen Curry now injured, the Warriors probably won’t touch Houston’s record. They’ll just have to wait a year or two until they can stay mostly healthy.
If you’re looking for a shooting record that actually will get broken this season, I invite you to watch the greatest mid-range shooting team in NBA history: the Brooklyn Nets. With almost half of the season in the books, the Nets are shooting an astonishing 51.3 percent in the mid-range. The NBA record is 47.4 percent by the 2021 Phoenix Suns. The Celtics, at 47.9 percent, also have a chance to break Phoenix’s record, but it’ll all be for nothing if the Nets keep shooting as well as they have.