There aren’t many athletes that get to experience the 20th anniversary of their debut while still playing their sport at the top level – particularly in sports that require extreme physicality to thrive.
Basketball, which requires a tremendous engine to get up and down the court as well as resilient joints from head to toe, is evidently on that list, which perhaps helps to explain why only ten players in the NBA’s vast history have featured in 20 or more seasons.
The latest to join that small band is LeBron James, who celebrated his own 20th anniversary as an NBA professional in October.
His LA Lakers side was defeated by the Sacramento Kings – ironically, the team that James made his debut against for the Cleveland Cavaliers all those years ago.
The 2023-24 season is technically the 21st of LeBron’s career, which means that if he carries on playing into 2024-25 he will tie Vince Carter as the only player to have featured in 22 campaigns – after that, who knows how much longer the 38-year-old will continue for.
Already a sporting billionaire – one of just four, actually, with former NBA great Magic Johnson joining the group that contains Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan, James will be hoping to add another record to his collection in the not-too-distant future.
Who Has Played the Most NBA Games?
Making yourself available from one season to the next is one thing, but playing in thousands of games? That’s an altogether different challenge, requiring immense injury-resistance and the hunger to keep grinding.
That perhaps explains why at the time of writing, after 77 years of NBA action, only five players have featured in 1,500 or more games.
NBA greats don’t come much more unassuming than Parish, the 7ft 1in powerhouse who, alongside Larry Bird and Kevin McHale, formed part of one of the NBA’s greatest ever teams in the 1980s era Boston Celtics.
The four-time NBA champion, ranked amongst the sport’s 50 greatest players of all time, has never really been one of the limelight or interviews, but did offer an insight into why he was able to forge such a lengthy career in a physically-demanding sport – he cut red meat out of his diet, practised martial arts and would later turn to yoga in a bid to prolong his days out on the court.
And judging by the stats, that was a savvy move.
As players age in the NBA, their game time tends to be carefully managed to keep them fresh and peaking at the right moments – it means that their schedule may shrink to 50-60 games per season. At that rate, of the current crop of players, only LeBron seems likely to join that 1,500 appearances club.
Who Has Won the Most NBA Titles?
Even if elite basketball is played for another 1,000 years, it seems highly doubtful that anyone will get close to Bill Russell ridiculous tally of eleven NBA titles.
For context, Michael Jordan and the rest of that game-changing Chicago Bulls side of the 1990s *only* won six titles, and of those still playing in the NBA today the charge is led by LeBron, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson on four championships.
Russell, of course, was a pivotal figure for the Boston Celtics, who would become the NBA’s powerhouse franchise of the 1950s and sixties and one of the best teams in basketball history. In fact, the Celtics would win the championship every single year of the 1960s bar 1967, when they were usurped by the Philadelphia 76ers.
A five-time MVP and 12-time All Star, so huge has Russell’s contribution been to basketball that the NBA retired his number six jersey when he passed away in 2022 – the only time in the history of the NBA that such an honour has been bestowed.
Who Has Scored the Most NBA Points?
If LeBron plays for two more seasons and scores, say, 1,300 points in each, he will end up on roughly 40,300 at the end of his career.
That would make the Lakers man the only player in history to ever breach the 40,000 point mark – a truly astonishing achievement.
For context, the likes of Jabbar and Karl Malone – second and third on the all-time list – mustered 38,387 and 36,928 points respectively during their careers, which shows what an outstanding servant James has been to the game.
If it takes around three seasons for a player to muster a total of 5,000 points, the likes of Kevin Durant and James Harden would have to play into their mid-forties to even have a chance of catching LeBron.
When they dish out plaudits in the sporting world, ‘The King’ is worthy of his moniker and all the accolades that come his way.