NBA Hall of Famer and four-time champion Shaquille O’Neal shared his thoughts on fellow legend LeBron James following last night’s season opener. After James began his 19th season with a 34-point effort, O’Neal gave praise to the King.
“He’s got four rings and he becomes the highest scorer in NBA history. He’s the best ever. Ain’t nothing you can say.”
A new perspective on the current generation
O’Neal has recently gained notoriety for his tendency to criticize the stars of the current game. Whether it’s Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, or Dwight Howard, the Diesel enjoys throwing shade at today’s players.
But interestingly, he did quite the opposite for his former teammate, James. O’Neal and James spent one year together as members of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2009-10 season, a relationship that potentially played into this praise.
James’ GOAT case
James’ four championships rank behind Michael Jordan’s six, the player he’s regularly compared to in debates. But as O’Neal insinuated, James’ other accomplishments, such as his place on the all-time scoring list, could be enough to diminish the gap in championships.
As of now, James’ 35,401 career points rank third all-time, ahead of Michael Jordan. On the other hand, he’s 1,528 points from overtaking Karl Malone for the second spot and 2,987 points away from surpassing the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.
Barring injury or an unexpected retirement, James could capture the top spot as early as the 2022-23 season. He turns 37 in December but hasn’t shown many signs of permanently slowing down.
James has averaged 72.7 games played per season throughout his career. If he maintains this trend by averaging 72 games over the next two years, he’d need to average 20.9 points per game to reach number one. For James, a career 27-PPG scorer, such an accomplishment is well within reach.
O’Neal alluded to this challenge ahead of James.
“I saw he needed to average  points or something like that the next few years, which he will do. He can do that in two more years.”
With his 19th year underway, time will tell if James has enough in the tank to reach the top of the scoring list. Doing so would make his case for the greatest player of all time even stronger.