LeBron James Vs Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: A Statistical Comparison

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LeBron James is on his way to becoming one of the best, if not the greatest basketball players of all time. On the other hand, Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA's all-time leading scorer and has paved way for modern-day basketball as we see it today. One of the all-time greats, Kareem was a monster on both ends of the floor. The same can be said, with no less vigour, for The King. Kareem has been declared a 'basketball legend' by many and is definitely among the top 3 NBA players of all-time.

Also read: LeBron James vs Michael Jordan - A Statistical Comparison

Being on top of the NBA's all-time playoffs scoring list, a 3-time NBA Champion, a 4-time MVP and already a 14-time All-star, LeBron has cemented his name amongst some of the best that NBA has ever produced. He has done enough to solidify his legacy as one of the greatest the game has ever seen and so, is constantly weighed with the forefathers of basketball that created a foundation for the league of today.

Any comparison made between the skillsets of LeBron and Kareem would be nothing short of a cardinal sin, but here we try and compare them purely from an unbiased and statistical viewpoint.

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#1 Biographical detail


Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was a tall center who had an unguardable "skyhook" and relied on his shooting due to lack of exceedingly high levels of physical strength, whereas LeBron's freight-train-like physique coupled with an inhuman ability to accelerate anytime makes him a problem for any defense.

Kareem often took advantage of his tall physical structure to score over relatively smaller defenders, dominating the game throughout the 1970s and early 80s. Coming out of high school, His offensive skill made the collegiate basketball rules committee to make dunking illegal prior to his enrollment at UCLA.

On the other hand, LeBron James is a 6-foot 8-inch (2.03-metre) tall “point forward” who is as adept at bringing the ball down the court as at playing near the basket. James presents a unique challenge for opposing teams; his unmatched athleticism and well-muscled body would not have been out of place in the National Football League.

Also Read: How many rings does Kareem Abdul Jabbar have?

#2 NBA championships and seasons

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Also read: Reviewing LeBron James' Six NBA Finals losses

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar clearly has double the number of Championships LeBron has, as the latter finishes his 15th season in the league this year. LeBron has been running after rings and superteam collabs ever since he stepped foot in the NBA in 2003 and has managed to fill 3 of his fingers with title rings till date, winning two of them with the Heat (2012 and 2013) and the latest one being the iconic comeback from 3-1 down against the Warriors in 2016.

Kareem's NBA titles are well spread out throughout his 20-year long career, the first coming in 1971 with the Milwaukee Bucks and the last (sixth) gracing his palms in 1988. Kareem won 2-NBA Finals MVP on his memorable six title runs whereas LeBron won the Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP award every time his team won the NBA Championship.

In his 15th season, LeBron does not look like he's stopping anytime soon as he averaged 32.4 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists before finishing as a finalist for 2017-18 NBA regular season MVP award. He will clearly play more seasons and will continue to match the great Kareem in fields left untouched.

#3 Honours and awards

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won 6 NBA regular season MVPs

Consider the fact that the stats listed above are after completion of 20 seasons of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. On the other hand, LeBron has just completed his 15th season and has stacked up numbers that are pretty much at par with that of Kareem's. The only aspect of the game where Kareem outpaces James comprehensively is defense.

The scoring machine that LeBron is and the dominance he displays on the court extends way beyond the stat sheets. Both these players possess enough ability to carry their teams all the way to the playoffs single-handedly.

LeBron's greatness can be put into perspective by the fact that his numbers listed are at par with a man who was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995 and was named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history in 1996.

#4 Per game performance stats

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James brings his A-game in the playoffs as has been proven time and again. He is the Playoffs all-time leading scorer with 6,911 post-season points to his name. It is not doubted that 'Playoff LeBron' can arguably be called the "Best Basketball Player on the Planet". Kareem reached the playoff 18 times during his stint in the NBA. LeBron has outmatched his numbers in lesser trips and has taken the playoff stat sheets by storm.

Kareem leads The King only in rebounds and blocks during the regular season, which can be attributed to his 7-foot 2-inch structure which he used to pull down boards at will. Kareem is third all-time on NBA's regular season rebounding list and also leads James in 'field goals made' by a huge margin in the regular season. Also, regular season Kareem leads the league in scoring all-time while the 'Kid from Akron' finds himself at 7th currently, on pace to catch up before he retires.

#5 Performance Stats - Totals


Kareem's dominance on the scoring end is pretty evident. He has 38,387 points which is the highest all-time in the regular season by any player till date. By the end of his extraordinarily long career, he had set NBA records for most points (38,387), most field goals made (15,837), and most minutes played (57,446).

Although LeBron's two-way efficiency is one for the books, he still has some ground to catch up in terms of block shots and rebounds. Kareem has around double the rebounds & triple the block shots that LeBron has in the regular season in just over 400 more games played.

The King's active hands on defence(1,865 steals in comparison to Kareem's 1,160) create tons of transition fastbreak buckets for his team, shedding light on his intercepting ability and basketball IQ to read the play before it happens. On the other hand, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar preferred a shot-blocking mentality suited to his tall frame and wide wingspan.

#6 Shooting Percentages

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Kareem and LeBron have more or less the same shooting percentages in the postseason and the regular season i.e ONLY IF the 3-point percentage is not taken into consideration. Kareem played in an age where the big men were confined to the paint and the playmakers either fed them the ball or took long-range jumpers themselves. Big men in that era were not expected to be roaming about in the 3-point land fishing for triples, rather fight their position in the post for a solid pivot.

Players like the great Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and many more paved the way for more offensive big centers to step up and make drive-in lanes for themselves & shoot the ball from territories priorly unknown. The modern-day NBA does not witness size as an excuse to restrict the player within the paint which helps players like Cousins, Anthony Davis, LeBron James and others to swing for all they can.

#7 Earnings


LeBron James stands 6th on the Forbes World's Highest-Paid Athletes list 2018 with an annual pay of $85.5 Million and endorsements worth $52 Million. He has his own production company (SpringHill Entertainment) and media company (Uninterrupted). Even his 2% stake in Liverpool is soaring in value with the English club reaching the Champions League Final for the first time since 2007.

Kareem's net worth stands at $20 Million & he is also a best-selling author of several books, prominently known for "Giant Steps", "Brothers In Arms: The Epic Story of the 761st Tank Battalion, WWII's Forgotten Heroes", and "What Color Is My World? The Lost History of African American Inventors". Also, LeBron has the NBA's top endorsement portfolio with Nike, Coca-Cola (Sprite), Beats By Dre, Kia Motors, Intel and Blaze Pizza.

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Edited by Amulya Shekhar
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