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33-for-33: The Numbers That Define LeBron’s Greatness

Celebrating LeBron’s 33rd birthday with 33 facts and figures that show just how damn good he’s been in his 14-plus (and counting) NBA seasons

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

LeBron James turns 33 on Saturday, and it’s possible that, even after 1,313 games and 51,709 minutes in the regular season and playoffs combined, he is playing better than ever before.

In leading the Kyrie Irving–less Cavaliers to a 24-11 record, James is averaging career highs in assists and effective field goal percentage and near-career highs in rebounds and blocks, all while scoring at the highest rate since his first stint in Cleveland. At the moment, he’s behind only 2015-16 Steph Curry for the most efficient volume shooting season in league history, and he ranks among the league leaders in all sorts of advanced stats: PER, win shares, and box plus/minus. His Basketball-Reference page is full of goodies, with plenty of black ink and delightful surprises at each new line in the site’s various grids.

But this is nothing new for James, who has been a marvel for aesthetes and statisticians alike for 15 years. He’s always been consistent, and he’s always been an all-around contributor. And now, because of both his durability and the fact that he didn't spend any time in college, James—a four-time MVP, three-time champion, and two-time Olympic gold medalist—is already in position to climb a host of all-time leaderboards. For instance, he’s nearly 5,000 points ahead of where all-time leading scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was at this age. While it’s a tough ask for anyone to age as smoothly as Abdul-Jabbar or as second-leading scorer Karl Malone did, it’s not as if James has evinced any signs of slowing down. So to celebrate his 33rd birthday and ongoing chase of greatness, here are 33 facts and figures that illuminate his extraordinary statistical achievements to date.

  1. James has been named to the All-NBA First Team 11 times, which ties the mark held by Kobe Bryant and Malone. He’s a sure bet to wrest the record for himself next spring.
  2. James has missed only 71 games in his career, meaning he’s played in 93.9 percent of all possible contests.
  3. Nobody has played more games than James since he was drafted no. 1 overall in 2003. For comparison, he’s played 85 more games than Carmelo Anthony (no. 3 in 2003) and 149 more games than Dwyane Wade (no. 5), which has essentially given him an extra season or two of counting stats over his best draft-class compatriots.
  4. His worst points-per-game average in any of the 14 seasons since his first in the league is 25.3. His worst rebounding average in that span is 6.0, his worst assists average is 6.0, and his worst field-goal percentage is 47.2.
  5. Here is the entire list of players in NBA history who have reached those marks in the same season: Oscar Robertson (nine times), Larry Bird (four), Michael Jordan (three), and Jerry West (one).
  6. In other words, only four other players in history, and not one since Jordan, have managed to match even the Bizarro Frankenstein collection of James’s worst seasons.
  7. In his 1,096 career regular-season games, James has scored at least 10 points in all but eight of them.
  8. Seven of those games came in his first 14 months playing in the NBA, including one on his last night as a teenager.
  9. Since celebrating his 20th birthday in December 2004, James has reached double digits in points in 987 of 988 games.
  10. His current streak of 826 consecutive games with 10-plus points is the second longest in league history, behind only Jordan’s 866-gamer that stretched across two retirements.
  11. James’s current streak is so long that its beginning came before he reached his first NBA Finals; he scored 19 points in a 96-91 win over the New Jersey Nets on January 6, 2007. That game was so long ago that the Nets were still starting the trio of Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, and Richard Jefferson.
  12. Since his rookie season, James has scored fewer than 20 points in each of three consecutive games just once. For reference, he’s completed 1,014 different three-game stretches in that span.
  13. James has never played more than two games in a row without recording at least one steal or block. (This stat admittedly sounds more rare than it is. Jordan also managed this feat throughout his career, as did Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson, while the likes of Scottie Pippen, John Stockton, and Kevin Garnett never went past a streak of three such games.)
  14. James has also never played more than two games in a row without recording at least five rebounds or five assists. (This stat is suitably rare among wings; Jordan didn’t manage this feat with either the Bulls or Wizards.)
  15. James scored 28,787 points through his age-32 season. Bryant (27,868) is the only player within 1,000 points of James, and Wilt Chamberlain (27,098) is the only other player within 4,000 points of James.
  16. The only players with more assists through their age-32 season are John Stockton, Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Robertson, Chris Paul, Jason Kidd, and Mark Jackson.
  17. After James in eighth place, the first non-guard on the assists list is Kevin Garnett in 51st, with only 61 percent of James’s total.
  18. Actually, forget the age-32 qualifier in this case: James already has the most assists ever for a non-guard, and the 12th most ever. By the end of next season, he could crack the top 10.
  19. James ranks only 48th in rebounds through his age-32 season, and he actually places behind contemporary forwards like Shawn Marion, Zach Randolph, and Carlos Boozer. Slacker.
  20. By game score, James’s best single-game performance came just last month, in a 57-point evisceration of the Wizards. He had scored more points in a game before (a career-high 61 against Charlotte in 2014), but in the 130-122 win over Washington, he added 11 rebounds, seven assists, three steals, and two blocks while making 68 percent of his shots.
  21. It’s not quite at the “Abdul-Jabbar winning Finals MVPs 14 years apart” level, but James’s first game with 50 points and 10 rebounds came in 2005. He’s the first player to post 50-10 games so far apart.
  22. James has recorded the other kind of 50-10 game, too, having tallied 50-plus points and 10-plus assists twice in his career.
  23. Both of those performances came in Madison Square Garden. He must like playing there. (And the Knicks free-agent rumblings are heating up again…)
  24. Moving on to playoff feats, James has essentially already equaled or bettered all of Jordan’s and Bryant’s career postseason totals—and unlike Jordan and Bryant, James still has playing years left to add to his numbers.
  25. For instance, those three rank 1-2-3 in career postseason field goal attempts, and the separation is minuscule: Bryant is at 4,499, Jordan at 4,497, and James at 4,496.
  26. They also rank 1-2-4 in points, with James in first place, Jordan in second, and Bryant in fourth.
  27. James is the only player to exceed 6,000 career playoff points, with 6,163. That’s more than Kevin McHale and Charles Barkley combined, or Paul Pierce and Reggie Miller combined, or Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, and Moses Malone combined.
  28. No player in league history has attempted more playoff 3-pointers, and only Ray Allen has made more. (Curry could pass them both in made 3s next spring. He’s only been in the playoffs five times, and he lost in the first round once. James is absurd, but Curry is, too.)
  29. Back to the regular season: Per Basketball-Reference, James has shared the court for at least 750 minutes with 47 different teammates. He has been saddled with numerous unremarkable supporting cast members throughout his career, but with 44 of those 47—or 94 percent—the pairing has produced a positive point differential. Robert "Tractor" Traylor, Ira Newble, and Jae Crowder from this season are the lone players in the red.
  30. For comparison, Bryant shared the court for at least 750 minutes with 50 different teammates (from 2000–01 on, which is as far back as that Play Index search extends). With 36 of them—72 percent—the pairing produced a positive point differential.
  31. Among those 46 high-usage lineups, James had the highest net point differential with Chris Bosh (plus-1,852 points).
  32. The best per-minute differential, though, came with the Outback Jesus himself, Matthew Dellavedova, at a rate of plus-14.9 points per 48 minutes.
  33. The rest of the top 10 in that manufactured statistic speak to both the breadth of James’s career and the various paths he’s traveled as a superstar. Some members of that group—Ben Wallace (third), Delonte West (sixth), Anthony Parker (ninth), Mo Williams (10th)—are reminders of his days as a young, lone talent on Cleveland squads ill equipped to take advantage of their singular star. Others—Wade (fourth), James Jones (fifth), Bosh (seventh), Mario Chalmers (eighth)—are reminders of his world-destroying superfriends era in Miami, when he started his ongoing run of seven consecutive runs to the Finals. And finally, the top two names on the list reflect his modern incarnation as a shepherd of lesser talents, where any player placed alongside him can succeed. That’s how Channing Frye and Dellavedova place second and first on this list, respectively, with per-minute differentials well ahead even of Wade’s and Bosh’s. The best player in the world can pair even with bench players to form a dominant duo.