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NBA: Evolution of the NBA all-time scoring record

A look at the seven players who have held the NBA’s scoring record after Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James moved to the top of the all-time list:

LeBron James, 38,388 points

Dubbed “The Chosen One” while still in high school, James has methodically improved every aspect of his game over his 20 seasons in the NBA working to make himself “unguardable.”

“I’ve evolved into where I do what I want to do on the floor,” he said in January after joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only players to score more than 38,000 points. “I take the shot that I want to take.”

A four-time NBA champion, four-time MVP and four-time Finals MVP, James, at 38, continues to be a dominant force in the league.

As his pursuit of the all-time scoring record heated up, James poured in 48 points in a 140-132 Lakers victory over the Houston Rockets on January 16, and became the oldest player in NBA history to post a 20-point triple-double when he delivered 28 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists in a Lakers overtime victory over the New York Knicks on January 31.

He’s the only active player in the top 10 on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, with Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant the closest to him among current players with 26,684 career points.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 38,387 points

Abdul-Jabbar soared over opponents for 20 seasons, his signature sky hook just one of the weapons that propelled him to six NBA titles, six MVP awards and 19 All-Star selections.

A standout at the University of California, Los Angeles, Chamberlain quickly made his mark in the NBA, averaging 28.8 points per game his rookie season, 31.7 the next and 34.87 in his third.

He moved atop the all-time scoring list on April 5, 1984 and would add almost 7,000 more points to his tally before retiring — building a career total that remained out of the reach of later greats including Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.

Wilt Chamberlain, 31,419 points

Chamberlain entered the NBA in 1959 and quickly established himself an  offensive juggernaut. His individual scoring feats include his fabled 100-point game and his 50.4 points per game average for the Philadelphia Warriors in the 1961-62 season.

In fact, Chamberlain delivered 113 games of 50 points or more, leading the league in scoring seven times and amassing two championships and four MVP awards.

He moved to the top of the all-time scoring list on February 14, 1966 — during a 41-point performance for the Philadelphia 76ers against the Detroit Pistons. He would own the record for 18 years.

Bob Pettit, 20,880 points

Pettit, the second pick in the 1954 draft, led the St. Louis Hawks to the NBA title against Boston in 1958, scoring 50 points in a championship clinching 110-109 victory in game six.

A two-time NBA MVP and two-time scoring champion, Pettit averaged more than 20 points per game in each of his 11 seasons.

That included 31.1 points per game in 1961-62.

Dolph Schayes, 18,438 points

Schayes won the NBA title with the Syracuse Nationals in 1955, launching a string of six straight seasons in which he averaged more than 20 points per game.

In addition to his scoring touch — and 84.9% free-throw shooting over the course of his 15-year career — Schayes led the NBA in games played four times and minutes played twice. 

He became the league’s all-time leading scorer in 1958, moving past Mikan during a blowout victory over the Detroit Pistons. 

George Mikan, 10,156 points

Mikan, who won five BAA/NBA titles from 1949-54, was a prolific scorer from the time he jumped from the National Basketball League for the 1948-49 campaign.

He averaged 23.1 points per game over six plus seasons, winning the NBA scoring title in 1949, 1950 and 1951.

He and Joe Fulks traded places atop the all-time scoring list in 1952 before Mikan supplanted Fulks for good on November 8 of that year.

Mikan, who was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1959, became the first commissioner of the American Basketball Association in 1967, a rival league that would merge with the NBA in 1976.

Joe Fulks, 8,003 points

Fulks won the scoring title with an average of 23.2 points per game in the Basketball Association of America’s inaugural season, helping the Philadelphia Warriors to the 1947 championship.

The BAA would merge with the National Basketball League in 1949 to form the NBA, and Fulks, a power forward and pioneer of the modern jump shot, would finish his eight-year career having set the single-game scoring record on four different occasions.

The first was a 37-point performance on December 3, 1946 and for fourth was a 63-point outburst against the Indianapolis Jets in February 1949 that would stand as the most points scored in an NBA game until Elgin Baylor scored 64 points in a 1959 contest.

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