LeBron James and Oscar Schmidt: united by the NBA’s greatest record
Oscar Schmidt retired at the age of 45 as the leading scorer in basketball history ahead of Kareem. Another record that LeBron has within reach.
At 38, LeBron James is showing no signs of slowing down. His retirement still seems far off, regardless of how much he hinted at it last season following the Lakers elimination in the Conference finals. His physique is unmatched for an athlete of his age; he meticulously looks after himself and is always prepared to compete. And, thanks to his longevity, he continues to break records that once seemed impossibly out of reach, prehistoric, even anachronistic (in the good sense of the word...).
James is heading into his 21st season in the NBA, the Lakers have a deep squad that ended up in the Conference finals last year and everything will depend on the star’s fitness. They will also be depending on his athletic ability, ideal for avoiding injuries. Even though he’s in the twilight of his career, LeBron remains key and essential. And what happens to his team depends on him.
LeBron made history last year. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 38,387 points record seemed like another of those milestones that no one would ever reach, but The King reached it thanks to remaining active and in good shape for so many years.
Only a handful of players have managed to complete 21 seasons in the NBA - (Vince Carter, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, Robert Parish and Kevin Willis) and in general, most of them were playing subsidiary by then, averaging less than 10 minutes-per-game in the final season. Lebron is about to start his 21st season and if he completes this one and the next, he will equal the record (22), held by Vince Carter (1998-2020).
And there is another record left to beat and within reach - however, it is not limited exclusively to the NBA. Oscar Schmidt scored a total of 49,737 points during his career and the King is currently on 47,734. Those figures include regular season games, playoffs and international competitions. James averaged 28.9 points last year with the Lakers (at 38 years old). That is to say, if he maintains that average for 70 games, he could become the top scorer in the history of basketball, a historic figure that it seemed that no one could take away from the Brazilian, who retired at the age of 45, after enjoying a sporting career of 29 seasons that spanned from 1974 to 2003, playing in four different decades.
Oscar Schmidt is a world basketball legend. He was part of the Brazil team that competed in the 1987 Pan American Games held in Indianapolis, in which they defeated Team USA by 120 to 115, thus achieving the first victory of a team against the United States on home soil, in addition to being the first team to score more than 100 points. Schmidt is also part of the NBA Hall of Fame, a milestone for never having played in the North American league. And also from the Spanish Basketball Hall of Fame, where he dedicated another part of his career.
When asked about his entry and why he chose not to go to the NBA as well as his decision to quit when he was just 263 points away from reaching the 50,000-point barrier, Schmidt explained: “I never played to score points. I practise a lot. That’s why I shot good. I’d shoot 500 3-pointers each practice, so it’s more than a thousand a day. And then one day I thought, it’s so easy. Let me make it a little more difficult. After shooting the five hundred. I go home just when I score 20 in a row without missing. But one day I spent two hours to make the 20, and then I kept shooting to see how far I could go. I shot 90 in a row with a teammate passing me the ball. My team was standing on the floor in silence. That’s why I scored a lot.
“The reason I never played in the NBA, was that as I started to get older, you must run fast every game and I just said no. The change in rules came too late in my career. Before that the most important thing for me was playing in for my country, so I refused all NBA advances. I have no regrets and I would still do the same thing now if the rules were still the same”.
LeBron is the only player in activity who could surpass Schmidt’s points tally and equal Vince Carter’s 22 seasons in the NBA. Two challenges that were once deemed impossible but while he is still going strong, there is no reason why James won’t achieve them, and that’s what makes him who he is - a living legend.