NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James have been intertwined in the sense that they are two of the most proficient scorers in NBA history. Abdul-Jabbar retired with 38,387 career points and is still the all-time leader in points. James is in third place with 36,205 and counting. Analysts believe that James, given his supreme physical condition, has a legitimate shot at overtaking Kareem to take the all-time scoring crown.
Outside of the all-time scoring list, there is an advanced statistic that links the two legends: the Offensive Win Shares (OWS). Basketball-Reference defines Win Shares as “a player statistic which attempts to divvy up credit for team success to the individuals on the team.” OWS “are credited to players based on Dean Oliver’s points produced and offensive possessions.” In other words, OWS is a stat that tries to estimate a players’ contribution to a win, with respect to his offensive abilities.
Jabbar is the all-time leader in OWS with 178.92. Right behind him is James with 172.21. A look at players beneath them reveals something mighty impressive. Jabbar and James are the gods of the OWS and no one else comes close. In third place is Wilt Chamberlain with 153.34. Oscar Robertson has 151.99, and rounding up the top five is Michael Jordan with 149.88.
Broadly examining Kareem and LeBron’s respective careers could reveal why they are a cut above the rest with regard to OWS. Jabbar spent 20 seasons in the league and only missed the playoffs twice. Even before he donned the Purple and Gold jerseys, Kareem was already racking up the wins with the Milwaukee Bucks. He even won his first title with the franchise in 1971.
In those 20 years as a professional baller, Kareem was almost always the offense’s focal point. Yes, there was Magic Johnson who made sure everyone got a piece of the pie. But in halfcourt sets, it was simply common sense to give the rock to Abdul-Jabbar as no one can stop his sky-hook.
At year 19, James has missed the playoffs three times in his career. LeBron has also won a title for all of the teams he has played for. Perhaps what boosted his offensive win shares is his historic eight consecutive trips to the NBA Finals — a record that may never be broken again. It also helps that James pretty much does everything on the floor. He entered the league and was tagged as a playmaker like Magic Johnson. But as the years went by, James developed into a consistent three-level scorer.
Perhaps the question now is: apart from possibly overtaking Kareem in the all-time scoring list, could LeBron boot him out in OWS? James seems to have a lot left in the tank, so don’t count it out.