Timeline: The progression of NBA all-time leading scorers
Timeline of the National Basketball Association’s scoring record progression, focusing on LeBron James and his pursuit of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the No. 1 spot on the list:
Nov. 1, 1946 — Ed Sadowski of the Toronto Huskies scores 18 points on the first night of NBA play, technically making him the league’s leading career scorer. The “record,” as would be expected, was held by nine different players in the first 16 days of what was then called the Basketball Association of America.
Dec. 19, 1946 — Joe Fulks of the Philadelphia Warriors moves into the scoring lead with 336 points. The eventual inductee to the Basketball Hall of Fame would hold the record for more than five years.
March 4, 1952 — George Mikan of the Minneapolis Lakers has a 41-point, 36-rebound game against Philadelphia, and passes Fulks for the scoring lead with 6,942 points. Fulks would reclaim the lead 11 days later and keep it until Nov. 1, 1952, when Mikan took the scoring lead back and kept it for nearly five years.
Oct. 23, 1957 — Ed Macauley of the St. Louis Hawks pushes his career total to 10,166 points, passing Mikan. Macauley would hold the record for only 39 days.
Dec. 1, 1957 — Dolph Schayes of the Syracuse Nationals takes over as scoring leader, passing Macauley with a total of 10,391 points.
Dec. 11, 1963 — Bob Pettit of the St. Louis Hawks starts a 796-day run as scoring leader, after finishing play that night with 18,373 points.
Feb. 14, 1966 — Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia 76ers passes Pettit, scoring 20,884 points to that point in his career. Chamberlain would hold the record for 6,625 days.
April 5, 1984 — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of the Los Angeles Lakers passes Chamberlain. Abdul-Jabbar finished play that day with 31,421 points, then scored nearly 7,000 more points before retiring. He would hold the record for more than 14,000 days.
Dec. 30, 1984 — LeBron James is born in Akron, Ohio.
Oct. 29, 2003 — James makes his NBA debut for the Cleveland Cavaliers, scoring 25 points in a game against the Sacramento Kings. He was 2,709th on the NBA’s career scoring list after that game.
Jan. 21, 2006 — James scores the 5,000th point of his career in a game against the Utah Jazz. He was the 634th player in NBA history to reach that many.
Feb. 27, 2008 — James scores career point No. 10,000, against the Boston Celtics. At this point, he’s 283rd on the scoring list.
Feb. 1, 2009 — James moves into 200th on the scoring list.
July 8, 2010 — James announces he is leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers and signing with the Miami Heat.
Nov. 22, 2010 — James passes Artis Gilmore (15,576) for 100th on the career scoring list.
April 10, 2012 — James passes Isiah Thomas (18,822) for 50th on the career scoring list.
June 21, 2012 — James wins his first NBA championship, helping the Heat beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games.
June 20, 2013 — James and the Heat win a second consecutive NBA title, rallying to top the San Antonio Spurs in a seven-game finale.
March 3, 2014 — James, wearing a mask to protect a facial fracture, scores a career-best 61 points for the Heat in a win over the Charlotte Bobcats. He made 22 of 33 shots from the field. “The man above has given me some unbelievable abilities to play the game of basketball,” James said. At this point, he’s 28th on the all-time scoring list.
July 11, 2014 — Sports Illustrated publishes James’ decision to leave the Heat and return to the Cavaliers.
June 19, 2016 — James becomes a three-time NBA champion, leading the Cavaliers past the Golden State Warriors and winning a Game 7 thriller on the road.
Nov. 5, 2016 — James passes Hakeem Olajuwon (26,946) for 10th on the career scoring list.
Dec. 9, 2016 — James passes Elvin Hayes (27,311) for ninth on the career scoring list.
Dec. 17, 2016 — James passes Moses Malone (27,405) for eighth on the career scoring list.
March 30, 2017 — James passes Shaquille O’Neal (28,596) for seventh on the career scoring list.
July 1, 2018 — James announces he is leaving Cleveland again and signing with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Oct. 27, 2018 — James passes Dirk Nowitzki for sixth on the career scoring list. Nowitzki would later re-claim the No. 6 spot by passing Wilt Chamberlain.
Nov. 14, 2018 — James passes Chamberlain (31,417) for fifth on the career scoring list.
March 6, 2019 — James passes Michael Jordan (32,392) for fourth on the career scoring list.
Jan. 25, 2020 — James passes Kobe Bryant (33,643) for third on the career scoring list. Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others would perish in a helicopter crash one day later. Bryant’s last tweet would read: “ Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother #33644 ”
Oct. 11, 2020 — James wins his fourth championship, with the Lakers topping the Heat in six games at the NBA’s restart bubble inside Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida. The league finished the 2019-20 season there after play was stopped for about four months in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
March 19, 2022 — James passes Karl Malone (36,928) for second on the career scoring list.
Feb. 7, 2023 — James passes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) for No. 1 on the scoring list, ending nearly a four-decade run for Abdul-Jabbar as the record-holder.
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