When we discuss players’ legacies, we consider the totality of their careers. That includes things like All-Star appearances, championships and All-NBA nominations. It also includes the sum of their statistical achievements.
And as the NBA has carved out its history, there are certain milestones that garner admittance into the Hall of Fame and/or help people to climb more rungs on the “GOAT” list.
Here’s a look at five players who are likely to hit benchmarks this year that will reinforce their resume in a historic way:
LeBron James’ assault on Michael Jordan’s status as the greatest ever will march on this season as the King continues to amass all-around numbers like no one else in history while also ascending another spot on the all-time scoring list.
James comes into the season with 32,543 points, 8,662 assists and 8,880 rebounds, putting more than a few impressive achievements in his view.
The biggest of those should be passing Kobe Bryant for third on the all-time scoring list with just 1,101 points more points. Depending on how many games he misses and how many points he averages, James should get there around the end of January, feasibly on Jan. 28 against the LA Clippers.
But that is just one of the milestones he could hit. He could also be the first player in history to meet 30,000 points, 9,000 assists and 9,000 rebounds. To put perspective on this, only five players have amassed 20,000 points, 6,000 rebounds and 6,000 assists. Only three players have 7,000 assists and 7,000 rebounds. (Jason Kidd and Oscar Robertson being the other two.) Only Kidd and James have 8,000 assists and rebounds.
James is also the only player in history with 30,000 points and 7,000 assists. The 30K/9K/9K club might be a one-man show forever.
But arguably the most incredible stat is that James is likely to surpass 65,000 points created (i.e. points generated through scoring and passing combined) during the regular and postseason combined. He already has the most with 63,741 while John Stockton is second with 57,347.
Almost as an aside, James can move from 10th to eighth on the all-time assist leaderboard as well with 399 dimes. The only season in his career he hasn’t gotten at least that many was the strike-shortened one in 2011-12.
Speaking of the 20,000 point, 6,000, rebound, 6,000 assist club, Russell Westbrook could become the newest member this season, although he’s still a smidge short in two categories.
Here is the company Westbrook hopes to join:
Pretty solid group, don’t you think?
While Westbrook won’t be hitting daily triple-doubles sharing the ball with James Harden, he should still be able to hit the rebound mark easily. If he averages the 22.9 points he did last year, he’ll hit the 20,000-point mark around the 50th game, likely shortly before or after the All-Star break.
James Harden won’t be joining the 20,000/6,000/6,000 club this year, but he should hit 20,000 points fairly easily, and he’ll join another exclusive group when he does that.
But first, let’s consider how important that 20K milestone is to a player’s Hall of Fame chances. There are 44 players in history with at least that many. Of those, 30 are already in the Hall, 12 are not yet eligible, and two have been retired long enough to get in and not made it. Those two, Tom Chambers (20,049) and Antwan Jamison (20,042), barely made the mark.
Thus, 20,000 points isn’t a guarantee of getting enshrined, but it’s very close to it, especially if it’s accompanied with other hardware.
Scoring points is one thing. Scoring them efficiently is another, and few players have been able to put up the volume Harden does as efficiently. Here’s a look at how he compares to players with 20,000 points and a true shooting percentage over 60.
That’s impressive company, but Harden could develop his own extremely impressive club in another two seasons: He’s on track to become the inaugural member of the 20,000/5,000/5,000 club with a true shooting percentage over 60.
Harden should also see himself climbing the 3-point ladder this season. He comes in ninth, with 2,025, but if he approaches last year’s number, he could get to around 2,400 this year. Depending on what Kyle Korver does, that would put Harden around fourth or fifth all-time.
If he plays 19 games, he’ll join Parish, Kareem, Dirk Nowitizki and Stockton as the only players to participate in 1,500 games. Theoretically, if he played all 82 games, he’d pass Kareem for second all-time, but that’s unlikely. But it’s not unfeasible that Carter gets the 42 he needs to pass Nowitzki for third.
He also needs just 54 threes to pass Jason Terry for fifth all-time. And if he matches last year’s 562 points on the season, Carter will climb up one or two spots on the all-time scoring list (depending on what happens with Carmelo Anthony) to 19th or 18th. He needs just 185 to leapfrog Alex English and Melo.
Stephen Curry is the greatest 3-point shooter of all-time, and the career totals are really starting to reflect that. He’s third all-time in made deep balls and needs only 78 more to eclipse Reggie Miller for second. Miller played 18 seasons until he was 39. Curry has played 10 seasons and is 30.
With 470 postseason 3s, he’s already the all-time leader by 85.
And this year, he has a decent shot at passing Ray Allen for most all-time in regular and postseason combined. Allen is the current leader, but Curry trails by just 405. For mere mortals, that total would be impossible to imagine in a single year, but Curry is no mere mortal. He’s already hit that 400-three benchmark twice in his career, including last season when he splashed home 446 total.
He had 482 the last time he played without Kevin Durant (2015-16).
Curry has also come close on two other occasions, getting 396 in 2016-17 and 384 in 2014-15. So it’s far from unfathomable that he accrues those kinds of numbers this year.
The most remarkable thing about this feat? Allen took 1,471 games to post his total. Curry has only played in 806. And his 43 percent rate for his career is the best of any player in the top 100.
Kelly is a TBW co-Founder and frequent contributor. He spent 4.5 years in the USAF before attending University of Minnesota, Bible college in Anaheim and 15 years in youth ministry. Basketball blogger-turned-NBA Featured Columnist with Bleacher Report, BBallBreakdown, Fansided, The Step Back, Hoops Habit, SportsNet, Vantage Sports, Dime and FanRag, among others, his work has been read over 25 million times. The former NBA Assistant Editor at FanRag (2016-18), he is an NBA Twitter staple who is well-connected and respected among today’s finest basketball writers.