LeBron James’ Impressive All-Star Game Resume
After just five appearances, LeBron James has already made his mark in the All-Star Game record book, averaging 23.4 ppg (first all-time, 2.9 ppg ahead of former leader Oscar Robertson), 6.6 rpg and 5.2 apg while shooting .516 from the field. James needs just 68 points–three more “average” games at his current pace–to crack the top ten on the All-Star all-time career scoring list, a group whose members have played in at least 11 All-Star games each. James is not a noted long range marksman but he ranks ninth in All-Star history in three point field goal percentage (.382; former Cavalier Mark Price is fifth at .474, while Glen Rice ranks first with a blistering .600) and is tied for third-fourth in All-Star history with 13 three point field goals made, trailing Kobe Bryant by four and Ray Allen by seven (you won’t see any old school players on that list because the NBA first used the three point shot during the 1979-80 season and it did not become an integral part of most players’ games until several years later).
NBA All-Star statistics are not as important or meaningful as numbers posted in regular season and postseason play but–as I first noted in a March 2002 Basketball Digest article titled Midseason Maestros and then discussed again in an NBCSports.com piece called NBA Allows Their Stars to Shine–even though All-Star games are by definition exhibitions the NBA All-Star Game more closely approximates a “real” game than the All-Star games sponsored by the NFL, MLB or NHL, each of which are governed by special rules or considerations that either limit players’ playing time or curtail their opportunities to play the kind of all out, full speed game that earned them their All-Star selections in the first place.
James has already won two All-Star MVPs (2006, 2008), so he certainly has a chance to tie or break Bob Pettit’s record (four; 1956, 1958, 1959–shared with Elgin Baylor–and 1962); Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant each won three All-Star MVPs (including the 2009 honor that O’Neal and Bryant shared).
Although James started young and will likely be an All-Star for at least 10 more years, he still has a lot of work to do to match Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time records of 19 All-Star selections and 18 All-Star game appearances. James’ new teammate Shaquille O’Neal ranks second with 15 All-Star selections, though injuries limited O’Neal to 12 appearances. Julius Erving played in the All-Star game in each of his 16 seasons (five in the ABA followed by 11 in the NBA) and he holds the record for most All-Star points (321), while Michael Jordan (14 selections, 13 appearances) is the all-time NBA leader with 262 All-Star points, ahead of Abdul-Jabbar (251) and Oscar Robertson (246). Assuming that James plays in the All-Star game every year, at his current pace he will break Jordan’s record in 2016 and then pass Erving’s mark in 2018.
James’ All-Star single game highs are 29 points (2006), eight rebounds (2005, 2008) and nine assists (2008) but he has yet to be the single game leader in any of those categories, so James has a long way to go to equal Bob Pettit (six-time All-Star scoring leader), Tim Duncan (six-time All-Star rebounding leader) and Magic Johnson (seven-time All-Star assists leader); it seems likely that James will be the scoring leader multiple times before his career ends and he probably will also be the leader at least once in assists–perhaps as soon as this year since Chris Paul, the 2008 and 2009 leader with 14 assists in each of those games, will not play due to a knee injury. Only four players–Pettit, Abdul-Jabbar, Erving and Elvin Hayes–have led an All-Star Game at least once in scoring, rebounding and assists. Pettit is the only player to lead in all three categories in the same All-Star Game–and he did it twice, 1956 and 1959; James certainly possesses the necessary all-around skills to not only duplicate that feat but also to become just the second player in All-Star history to post a triple double (Michael Jordan had 14 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in 1997, though he shot just 5-14 from the field).