Records are made to be broken, right? Statistics in sports serve as a bridge between eras, a way to compare the greats of the past with the stars of today. A quick look at some of the NBA’s most impressive statistical records reveals the true legends of the game of basketball. Seeing, in numbers, the dominance and consistency of the all-time greats offers an appreciation of the magical moments on the hardwood as well as a measuring stick for the super stars today.
While some records seem utterly unbreakable (Wilt‘s 27 boards per game in ’61, for example), others that were once untouchable are coming into focus for today’s great players. Are Kareem‘s 38,000 points safe from some of the scorers we have in the game today? Will a player ever top Magic‘s career average of 11 assists per game? When Ray Allen knocked down his 2,561st three-point shot and passed Reggie Miller as the most prolific long-range shooter in history, we saw what happens when seemingly indestructible records fall.
Here are ten NBA records that will one day fall, and who in today’s game has the best chance to break them.
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CAREER PLAYOFF POINTS SCORED
Michael Jordan – 5,987 Points
Michael Jordan always stepped up his game when it mattered most: in the postseason. He averaged a huge 33 points per game in 179 career playoff games. When he scored his 5,763rd playoff point in 1998, he broke Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record as the most prolific playoff scorer in NBA history. He went on to score 224 more and his 5,987 career postseason points is currently the highest total of all time.
Kobe Bryant is spenting his entire adult life being compared to Jordan. You’ll never be as good as Michael, he heard. You owe your rings to Shaq – Michael’s were all his. While Kobe will never silence his critics and usurp Jordan as the perceived greatest player of all time, he is in a position to break Jordan’s long-standing playoff scoring record. Sitting at 5,640 career playoff points, Kobe needs only 348 more to get the best of Jordan in at least one aspect of the game. Considering that Kobe has scored more than 348 points in nine of his 15 postseasons (including last year), he not only has an excellent chance of breaking Jordan’s record, he has a great shot to do it this season.
CAREER ASSISTS PER GAME
Magic Johnson – 11.19 Assists Per Game
Averaging double-digit assists in a single season is extremely difficult (it’s only happened 73 times in NBA history). Averaging double-digit assists per game for an entire career is almost impossible. Only Hall of Famers John Stockton and Magic Johnson averaged more than 10 assists per game for their careers, and Magic’s 11.19 average is the best of all time. Is there a point guard today that is capable of even flirting with Magic’s gaudy numbers? When Stockton retired 10 years ago, did we see the best chance to break the record walk away from the game forever?
Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul currently has a career average of 9.84 assists per game, ranking him third all time. Through the first seven years of their careers, Magic and Paul are within one assist per game of each other. While Paul will need to slightly increase his assist numbers to reach Magic’s mark, being surrounded by a finisher like Blake Griffin isn’t going to hurt his chances. Paul has an opportunity to join the incredibly exclusive double-digit assist club (just two members) if he can continue his already exceptional distributing.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – 57,446 Minutes Played
Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played in the league until his was 41 years old. Over his 20-year career, he averaged 37 minutes a game – playing in more than 95 percent of possible games and missing only 78 in his entire career. His 57,446 minutes of court time is the most of any player in history. By staying healthy and continuing to produce, Abdul-Jabbar was able to log nearly 40 full days worth of NBA minutes. A player with the potential to break Abdul-Jabbar’s minutes record needs to have started young, have a history of staying healthy and play a ton of minutes every season.
Through the first nine years of his career, LeBron James has already logged 27,497 minutes, averaging 40 minutes per game. Abdul-Jabbar played slightly more (28,614) through his first nine, but he didn’t have a lockout-shortened season to deal with. While Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra is discussing his desire to reduce LeBron’s marathon minutes, it’s just too difficult to keep his talent off the floor (and it will continue to be for many years). If LeBron can stay healthy (he has played in over 95 percent of his possible games), and maintain a strong desire to keep playing for the next 10 seasons, it’s not unthinkable to believe he will break Abdul-Jabbar’s record of minutes played.
Shawn Bradley – 7.83 Percent
Everybody knows Shawn Bradley is a giant man. Standing at 7-6, he is one of the tallest players in NBA history. Not many people know that Bradley holds the all-time NBA record for career block percentage (estimation of two-point field goal attempts blocked by a player while he is on the floor). According to Basketball-Reference.com, Bradley’s career block percentage of 7.83 is better than legendary defensive forces Dikembe Mutombo, Mark Eaton and Hakeem Olajuwon. Is there a shotblocker playing today that can even approach Bradley’s lofty numbers?
Last season, Oklahoma City big man Serge Ibaka posted the third-highest block percentage of all time. He blocked 9.8 percent of all two-point shots while he was on the court (Bradley posted a 9.4 block percentage in his best season). Through three years, Ibaka’s total block percentage is 7.4, good for second place all time. However, Ibaka has improved his block numbers each season and will likely continue to do so as he fine-tunes his defensive instincts. At only 23 years old, Ibaka has all the time in the world to swat shots in arenas across the NBA and eventually be the most efficient shotblocker in NBA history.
CAREER PLAYOFF GAMES
Robert Horry – 244 Games
Robert Horry played in a lot of playoff games. Not only did he log playoff minutes in every season of his career, he never played for a team that was eliminated in the first round. He played at least eight playoff games in every season in the league for a total of 244 playoff games. That’s nearly three 82-game seasons worth of playoff games.
Kobe Bryant has also played in a hell of a lot of playoff games. He is currently sitting at 220 postseason contests and his Lakers team is certainly on track to make the playoffs for the next couple of years (and likely for as many seasons as Kobe wants to continue). Kobe needs to appear in 25 more playoff games to break Horry’s record and if the Lakers can make a deep run this season, there is an excellent chance he breaks Horry’s record by the end of the 2012-13 postseason.
CAREER TOTAL REBOUNDING PERCENTAGE
Dennis Rodman – 23.44 Percent
Dennis Rodman put up absolutely silly rebounding numbers. Well removed from the era of Wilt the Stilt, Bill Russell and Bob Pettit, Rodman’s ability to clean the glass has not been duplicated since. He is the last NBA player to average over 16 boards per game in a season. Not only that, but he did it six times, topping out at 18.7 rebounds per contest for the Pistons in ’92. Oh yeah, and the dude was only 6-7.
While Wilt Chamberlain’s mythical career average of 22.89 rebounds per game is untouchable, The Worm’s career rebounding percentage (estimated percentage of available rebounds grabbed while a player is on the court) of 23.44 percent is not. Dwight Howard is actually knocking on Rodman’s door with a career rebounding percentage of 21. Because Dwight is only 26 years old, it’s not unfathomable to picture him bumping his percentage up a couple notches before he retires. However, he is going to have to work very hard. Dwight’s best rebounding percentage for a season was 21.9 percent. Rodman’s was a staggering 29.7 percent. Better get to work, big fella.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – 38,387 Points
This one is a doozy. Michael Jordan couldn’t reach it. Neither could Karl Malone, Wilt Chamberlain or Shaquille O’Neal. Even Kobe, one of the most prolific scorers of all time, is almost 10,000 points shy of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s career point total of 38,387.
LeBron James is on pace to score his 20,000th point about halfway through this season. While Kareem reached the plateau in fewer games, LeBron will likely accomplish it at a younger age (almost three years younger). Let’s say LeBron’s body holds up well and he plays ten more seasons in the league. If he averages 75 games per season over those ten years, LeBron would need to score about 26 points per game to take over Kareem’s legendary record. Seeing as LeBron’s career scoring average is almost 28 points per game, it’s not far-fetched to believe we could see King James add the scoring crown to his already impressive resume.
CAREER THREE-POINT PERCENTAGE
Steve Kerr – 45.40 Percent
The three-point line made its NBA debut in 1979. Of all the players and all the seasons since then, there were only eight instances where a player finished a season shooting better than 50 percent from beyond the arc. Only eight times. Sweet shooting Steve Kerr is responsible for three of those eight seasons, and his career average of 45.4 percent is the best in NBA history. Last season, 279 players’ field goal percentages were below 45.4 percent.
Currently, the player directly behind Kerr in the three-point percentage record book is Golden State Warrior guard Stephen Curry. Through his first three seasons, Curry is shooting an incredible 44.13 percent from downtown. Not only has Curry shot the ball consistently well from deep, but he has improved his percentage each season. While Kerr’s season average dipped below 40 percent six times, Curry has never shot less than 43 percent in a season. Don’t be surprised if Curry one day enters the record book as the most accurate shooter from deep.