It seems lazy to sum up someone’s career with a stat or milestone. Oscar Robertson was more than the triple-double record that he held for 47 years. Westbrook might even be less than that. But if my hands are zip-tied and you’re going to make me choose, being the first 30K (points), 10K (rebounds), and 10K (assists) player would be it. Just another unprecedented accomplishment that speaks to the genius and masterstroke of LeBron James. But what does it really mean?
He officially has more points than Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, Wilt Chamberlain, Carmelo Anthony, and many more of the greatest scorers ever.
He officially has more rebounds than Artis Gilmore, Andre Drummond, DeAndre Jordan, Bob Lanier, Dave DeBusschere, and many more of the greatest rebounders ever.
He officially has more assists than Oscar Robertson, Isiah Thomas, Gary Payton, Rajon Rondo, Maurice Cheeks, and many more of the greatest playmakers ever.
You can’t box in LeBron’s value with one skill because he does most of them better and longer than some of the game’s greatest specialists. The most famous LeBron lover on the planet, Nick Wright, touched on this remarkability after he became the league’s all-time leader in buckets.
But the most outstanding elements of LeBron’s game fall into one of two factors.
The Value of Longevity
Simply put, the more you do, the better it looks retroactively. Rational LeBron heads would even contend their King doesn’t have the scoring chops of someone like Michael, who was a 10x scoring champ. But in over 100 games more, LeBron did pass MJ on the scoring mountain. That’s the obvious benefit of longevity - he will completely dominate the metrics when it’s all said and done. These types of achievements stand out longer than the testimonies of present-day greatness.
For example, and I’ll take out LeBron because he’s too controversial: If you could have David Robinson or Bill Walton for one game at their absolute peak - who’s your guy?
The answer should be Walton because, at his pinnacle, he was a much better player all around than the Admiral. He was one of those guys that if provided a solid supporting cast, the team was always going to be a contender. Couldn’t quite say the same for Robinson.
But we hesitate on that question because Walton’s career was cut way too short from injury. The totality is what he’s missing. This can work in the opposite effect for LeBron, in that he seems better in certain categories than his reality dictates. James might be one of the best big-man playmakers we’ve ever seen, but he’s not up there with some of the greatest point guards in that regard.
The longevity argument also ignores the reality of modern science. LeBron didn’t fly commercial to cities while everyone was smoking on board. He doesn’t sleep on bunk bead busses while everyone around him is snorting cocaine and stocking up on fast food. It was only till recently that if a modern player suffered an MCL, he just might be okay.
The Value of Versatility
LeBron James is the most fantastic swiss army knife ever created. He really can do everything based on the topic of this article. But that is only one metric. People make the mistake of basing versatility as a criterion of success.
In a team sense, sometimes being someone as versatile as Bron has its downfalls. Because now everyone around him becomes a specialist, mostly catch and shoot players. This lack of rhythm and fogginess or roles is why many players have failed to excel next to LeBron.
Jordan Clarkson, Derrick Rose, Jae Crowder, Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, Chris Bosh are all legitimate examples of this.
I’m not trying to take anything away from LeBron. This is yet another great achievement for his legacy; I’m just trying to put these numbers in context. They are, after all, just that. Numbers. Not the be-all and end-all.
That being said, if there's a set of numbers that gives me pause, it's being the first player in the history of the National Basketball Association to score 30,000 points, grab 10,000 rebounds and dish out 10,000 assists. Hats off, Mr. James.