With LeBron James closing in on the 40,000-point mark for career points in NBA regular seasons, we thought it was time to take a look at those who have recorded the most in the league’s history.
This list is just for the regular season, and does not include contributions in the playoffs.
Most Career Points in NBA Regular Season
* Player still active
1. LeBron James – 39,868 points*
The NBA’s all-time highest scorer, James overtook the previous record of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on Feb. 7, 2023. Since then, he has kept racking up the points.
The 39-year-old scored 15,251 points in his first spell with the Cleveland Cavaliers, before adding 7,919 with the Miami Heat in his four years there. Another 7,868 followed after his return to Cleveland, and he has 8,830 and counting with the Los Angeles Lakers.
James is also approaching 1,500 regular season games, has a remarkable 10,800 assists – far more than anyone else on this list (fourth all time) – and is yet to indicate that retirement is on the immediate horizon.
How many points will he end up with? Who knows? But check back here to keep up with the tally.
2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – 38,387 points
Prior to LeBron, Kareem was the man who held the all-time points record, having done so since 1984 before his eventual retirement in 1989.
A six-time NBA champion, Abdul-Jabbar also collected six NBA MVP awards and two NBA Finals MVP awards. He finished his career with 1,560 appearances, the second-most in NBA history behind Robert Parish (1,611).
The breakdown of his points total was split between the two teams he represented, with 14,211 points scored during his six years with the Milwaukee Bucks and 24,176 points for the Lakers. Abdul-Jabbar had an overall PPG average of 24.6.
3. Karl Malone – 36,928 points
The Utah Jazz legend and 14-time NBA All-Star may not have won any championships, but it was not for a lack of point-scoring.
Malone’s 18 years in Utah saw him win two NBA MVP awards, likely making several teams regret allowing the Jazz to pick him 13th in the 1985 NBA Draft.
The vast majority of his points were of course scored for the Jazz (36,374), but Malone added another 554 with the Lakers in his final season before retirement in 2004, ending with an average of 25 points per game in his career.
4. Kobe Bryant – 33,643 points
The top four on this list all played for the Lakers at some point, but Bryant is the only one to spend his entire career with the team. He spent all of his 20 seasons in Los Angeles.
Like Malone, he ended his career with a healthy average of 25 points per game, but he also won five NBA championships, one NBA MVP award and two NBA Finals MVP awards.
Bryant’s best season came in the 2005-06 season when he totaled 2,832 points in 80 games, an average of 35.4 PPG.
5. Michael Jordan – 32,292 points
How can the man considered by many to be the greatest player of all time only be fifth in this list? Well, mainly because he didn’t play as many games as anyone above him.
Jordan played 1,072 regular season games in his career, at least 274 games fewer than any of the four players to score more career points.
In an incredible career that included six NBA championships, six NBA MVP awards and five NBA Finals MVP awards, Jordan famously played the vast majority of his career with the Chicago Bulls before two years with the Washington Wizards after a brief comeback.
His points-per-game average of 30.1 is the most in these rankings, while his most productive season was in 1986-87 when he scored 3,041 points in 82 games at an incredible average of 37.1 PPG.
6. Dirk Nowitzki – 31,560 points
Jason Kidd has stated his belief that Luka Doncic is the best to ever play for the Dallas Mavericks, adding: “He’s better than Dirk.” That is some praise given Nowitzki has scored the sixth-most points in NBA regular season history.
The German star played 21 seasons and 1,522 regular season games for the Mavs, a one-team player in the NBA (having played for DJK Würzburg prior to his move to Dallas in 1998) who won an NBA championship and NBA Finals MVP in 2011. He also claimed the NBA MVP award in 2007 and was a 14-time NBA All-Star.
Nowitzki has the lowest PPG average on this list (20.7) but given his consistency and longevity, it’s not a surprise to see him here. Let’s see if Doncic can join him one day.
7. Wilt Chamberlain – 31,419 points
The man holds so many NBA individual records that it’s almost unsettling to see him down in seventh on this list.
Chamberlain won two NBA championships, four NBA MVP awards and one NBA Finals MVP award. Spells with the Philadelphia/San Francisco Warriors, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Lakers saw him break the record, which he held before Abdul-Jabbar passed him in 1984.
Chamberlain did play the fewest games of the top nine players in this list (1,045) and, like Jordan, ended his career with a PPG average of 30.1.
8. Shaquille O’Neal – 28,596 points
Now a much-beloved basketball analyst, O’Neal had quite the career beforehand. He represented six teams during a 19-year tenure in the NBA, where he won four NBA championships, three NBA Finals MVP awards and an NBA MVP award.
Shaq started his career with four years at the Orlando Magic, before eight with the Lakers. Three and a half years with the Miami Heat were followed by short spells with the Phoenix Suns, the Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics before his eventual retirement in 2011. His 1,207 overall games saw him average 23.7 PPG.
9. Carmelo Anthony – 28,289 points
Like Shaq, Melo was another player who spent his career with six teams. Anthony was never able to win an NBA championship, but was a 10-time NBA All-Star.
He made his name with the Denver Nuggets, where he scored 1,725 points in his rookie season. After seven and a half years in Denver he moved to the New York Knicks, where he stayed until 2017. Brief stints followed with the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Houston Rockets, before two years with the Portland Trail Blazers and a final hurrah with the Lakers before retiring in 2022.
Anthony ended his career with a PPG average of 22.5 in a total of 1,260 NBA season games.
10. Kevin Durant – 28,245 points*
Along with James, Durant is one of only two active players in the top 10. Durant continues to put up the points in the NBA, currently doing so as part of the Phoenix Suns.
Nine years with the Seattle SuperSonics/Oklahoma City Thunder saw Durant establish himself as one of the NBA greats, twice averaging over 30 PPG in the regular season. It was with the Golden State Warriors where he won his two NBA championships to date, though, in just three years before he left for the Brooklyn Nets in 2019. He missed the entire 2019-20 season but returned in 2020, playing two and a half seasons for the Nets prior to joining the Suns in 2023.
Durant only recently passed 1,000 career regular season games, and has time to work his way up this list before he hangs it up.