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LeBron James passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record of 38,387 points to become the all-time scorer in NBA history on Feb. 7 against the Oklahoma City Thunder. And it may be a very long time before we see a new record-holder.

James was only 18 years and 303 days old when he started his first career NBA game—just 15 players in league history were younger when they made their debut. Abdul-Jabbar, for contrast, was 22 years old when he entered the league, and Michael Jordan’s 22nd birthday was during his rookie season.

James came to the NBA directly from high school. Starting in 2006, three years after James’ draft class, the new CBA instituted a requirement that all drafted players must be at least one year removed from high school and at least 19 years old during the calendar year of the draft. Until that rule is eliminated, it will be nearly impossible for a young superstar to have a head start on James in a quest to claim the scoring title.

Not only would a prospective future record-breaker likely be coming out of the blocks slightly later than James did, but they would have to then match his remarkable longevity. Literally a handful of players—exactly 10—have ever played at least 20 seasons in the league, and James is one of them. He could join an even more exclusive group with only Vince Carter if he plays through the end of his current contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, which would bring him to 22 total seasons. 

While the sheer length of James’ career is impressive, it’s the consistency of his excellence that has put him in position to make history. He has averaged 25 points per game each season for 19 consecutive seasons, and in his 15 seasons prior to becoming a Laker, he played fewer than 74 games just twice. 

With load management and the increased emphasis on rest among the younger crop of NBA stars, it is hard to believe that one of them will even play enough games to have a chance of catching James’ scoring total. And if the NBA ever shortens its regular season, forget about it. 

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