By Anthony Slater – Aslater@opubco.com - @anthonyVslater
With one quick move to his right and a ridiculous amount of hang time, LeBron James dropped in a smooth floater Wednesday night at Golden State and became the youngest player in league history to reach 20,000 points.
Since then, the reigning MVP has already upped that career number to 20,046. But that figure isn’t sexy enough for this post or round enough for the NBA lexicon.
Twenty-thousand is the milestone and it’s one LeBron reached before anyone else, hitting it at 28 years and 17 days old, easily passing Kobe Bryant’s previous record of 29 years and 122 days.
Much of the league took notice, sending out congratulations through Twitter or various other media outlets.
“I sent him a text and congratulated him,” Thunder star Kevin Durant said Thursday on the Dan Patrick show. “That’s a tremendous honor and coming into the league, something you wish to achieve. So I congratulated him on that.”
But Durant isn’t just an admirer of LeBron’s impressive feat. He’s the lead and likely only current challenger to overtake that record.
And in a society that’s constantly looking ahead, that became an immediate talking point seconds after LeBron’s floater fell through. Who’s next? And when could it happen?
“Hopefully (LeBron) can hold it for a little while,” Heat star Dwyane Wade told Miami reporters. ”Before Kevin Durant comes and snatches it.”
That seems to be the general consensus around NBA circles. LeBron’s a great player, but Durant, blessed with his gangly shot-making limbs, was put on this Earth to put leather through a hoop.
He’s already won three NBA scoring titles — the youngest to do so — in his first five seasons. And his talents continue to grow. So, barring injury, you’d expect Durant (who scored at a slightly higher rate than LeBron to start his career) to cruise past that 20K plateau in necessary time.
But the numbers hint otherwise, mainly due to LeBron’s extra year (KD played a year in college, James didn’t) and a later birthday (December compared to September).
As of Monday, Kevin Durant is 24 years and 113 days old. His birthday is September 29th. That means, his cut-off date for the 20,000-point record would be Oct., 16, 2016, when he’d be the exact same age LeBron was last Wednesday in Oakland.
KD has scored 11,187 points up to this point in his career, counting the 37 he dropped last night in Denver.
Including the 41 games left this season, there will be 287 regular season contests before the 2016-17 season starts in late October, days after Durant will have hit the deadline date.
So KD has 287 games to score 8,813 points. That’s 30.7 points per game (at a minimum), a number he’s yet to hit during a full season at any point in his career (30.1 is his highest). He’s averaging 29.5 points per game this year.
It’s certainly not impossible, but at this point seems unlikely. He’s going to need to stay freakishly healthy (something he’s done so far) and start scoring at an even higher rate.
Not saying he isn’t capable, but not betting on it either.