Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Another big milestone for LeBron

Heat superstar poised to become youngest player to reach 20,000 points

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LeBron JAMES was the youngest player in NBA history to win rookie of the year, to record a triple-double, to score 1,000 points, to score 10,000 points, to win MVP honours at an all-star game ...

You get the idea.

His latest youngest-to-do-it milestone could come as early as today. He needs 18 points to become the 38th NBA player to score 20,000 in his career. If it happens when the Miami Heat visit the Golden State Warriors, James will be more than a year younger than anyone else to reach the mark.

"You look at how many players have come through this league, the history of the game," James said. "That 20K mark is very limited. How many guys have done that? It's very, very limited.

"It'll be big-time. I'm not going to shy away from that. I'm not a big stats guy as far as individual, but that'll be pretty cool."

James' teammates say he could have reached 20,000 even faster.

"If LeBron was a different kind of player, he'd have a lot more points by now," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. "He's so unselfish. We give him the ball enough to score more. He just won't do it. We've had the discussion. We've sat down at dinner and we both said, 'Sometimes, I wish I had it in me.' We talk about it, we joke about it, but when the game comes he's unselfish."

Considering James has scored at least 18 points in 74 of his last 75 games, including playoffs, the milestone would seem likely to be met against the Warriors. It's the next-to-last game of a struggle-filled road swing for the Heat. Miami is 1-3 so far on the trip, yet still remain a half-game ahead of the New York Knicks for first place in the Eastern Conference standings.

Maybe a little celebrating is exactly what the Heat need right now.

If James scores the historic 20,000th point today, he will have done so at the age of 28 years, 17 days. According to STATS LLC, the youngest to date to score 20,000 points was Kobe Bryant, who got there when he was 29 years, 122 days old.

And only Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain (29 years, 134 days) and Michael Jordan (29 years, 326 days) reached the milestone before turning 30.

"LeBron can think about shooting, then he'll see one of his teammates are open, and then he makes the right play and gets the ball to them," Wade said.

From the time he started playing basketball, it's been driven into James' head that there's far more to the game than scoring.

Imagine if that wasn't the case.

It's a topic that some of his Heat teammates have debated more than once in recent weeks. The hypothetical scenario: What would happen if a plan was concocted to get James 35 shots in a game, or 40, or even more? How many points could he score? James has taken more than 25 shots in a game only once so far this season. Entering Tuesday's play, there have been 61 other instances of an NBA player shooting that many.

"LeBron taking 40 shots? Forget it," Heat guard James Jones said. "It's never happening."

He's probably right.

Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and James Harden are the top four scorers in the league this season, shooting a combined 48 per cent. James is fifth entering Tuesday's play, shooting a career-best of nearly 55 per cent.

"If you talk to all the basketball 'people,' I'm not much of a scorer," James said. "When the conversation comes up with the best scorers in the game today, I'm never mentioned. Ever. It's Kobe, it's KD, it's Melo, it was D-Wade, but they don't talk about us anymore. When you talk about scorers, I never get mentioned."

In terms of games played, James could be the seventh-fastest in NBA history to join the 20,000 club.

Today will be his 726th regular-season game. Chamberlain needed only 499 games to score 20,000, followed by Jordan (620), Oscar Robertson (671), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (684), Elgin Baylor (711) and Allen Iverson (713). If James gets it done on today, he'll reach the 20,000 mark one game faster than Shaquille O'Neal did.

"It shows, first of all, that I've been healthy," James said. "It shows that I've been fortunate enough to be on the floor and I've been able to work on my game. I've been able to work on my game and everything that I've worked on, I've been able to transfer that to a game situation. And I've had some teammates as well that have taken a little pressure off me, or I've been able to take pressure off them, by using my talents to the best of my ability."

Abdul-Jabbar owns the NBA record with 38,387 points. James is already just past halfway to that total.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 16, 2013 C4

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