All eyes are on the Los Angeles Lakers these days. The team has title aspirations but also has two players that rank in the top-10 for all-time points. Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, two future first-ballot Hall of Famers, are in their own separate points race. Anthony ranks No. 9 overall, while LeBron has a real shot of passing Karl Malone for second all-time in points.
One day, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time mark could fall to LeBron, assuming that he stays healthy and can play into his 40s. Maybe another player further down in the list could make a run. Kevin Durant, currently ranked 24th all-time, owns the most points in his career among active players outside of LeBron and Anthony. As both players look to move up the rankings in the second half of the season, these are the top-10 all-time scorers in league history.
10. Moses Malone - 27,409
Malone wore opponents down with his relentless effort and physical play. He was once nicknamed “Chairman of the Boards” for his excellent rebounding. He was dynamic when it came to offensive rebounds and scoring off his own missees. This sometimes led to Malone intentionally missing shots to pad his rebounding stats, but he was so aggressive that he was able to still get two points in the end.
Malone finished his career with the most offensive rebounds in league history. He led the league in offensive rebounds nine times. If you count his points from the ABA, he finished with 29,580 career points, which would have him rank ninth overall on the ABA/NBA leaderboard. Malone eventually had his No. 24 jersey retired by the Rockets, as well as his No. 2 jersey by the 76ers.
9. Carmelo Anthony - 27,887
Anthony plays the small forward position but is capable of playing power forward. He is considered one of the best scorers in the league’s history. He shared the NBA record for the second most points scored in one quarter with 33. He also holds the New York Knicks’ franchise record for points in a game with 62.
On offense, Anthony is well-regarded for a long list of offensive moves. He possessed strength and quickness to be a consistent scoring threat in the post. He also liked to create space from his defenders, which allowed him to step into his jump shot or put the ball on the floor. He was notorious for getting to the free-throw line as well. Anthony is also regarded as one of the most clutch players in league history, once hitting five game-winning shots in the last five seconds of a game in 2005-2006.
8. Shaquille O’Neal - 28,596
One of the greatest centers to play the game, Shaq established himself as an overpowering low post player, putting up career averages of 23.7 points, 58.2% shooting, 10.9 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game. At 7-foot-1, 330 pounds, and a shoe size of 23, he was known for his physical stature. That physicality helped him produce at a high level in the NBA, including his powerful dunks that could shatter the rim.
Shaq had a powerful drop step, which was once nicknamed the “Black Tornado.” Shaq also frequently took right-handed jump-hook shots to score near the basket. His ability to score near the basket is heralded as legendary. Shaq only made one three-point shot in his entire career, shooting 1-for-22 for his career, which is 4.5%.
7. Wilt Chamberlain - 31,419
In the history of the NBA, Chamberlain is regarded as one of the most dominant players ever. The 1972 Finals MVP holds numerous records, which includes leading scorer, all-time rebounder, and accurate field goal shooter. He led the league in scoring seven times, field goal percentage nine times, and minutes played eight times. On top of that, he led the league in rebounding 11 times and holds the all-time rebounding mark.
As for his scoring, he holds the most points in a game record with 100 points. The closest any player has come to that is 81. Chamberlain was a poor free-throw shooter, shooting a career average of 51.1%. Had he hit more of those, he might have made a run for top-5. With that said, Chamberlain once averaged 50.2 points per game, which we will likely never see again from a modern-day player.
6. Dirk Nowitzki - 31,560
Nowitzki gets his jersey retired by the Mavericks soon. It’s one of the most deserving awards one could give to a player, who made the Mavericks relevant for 22 years. Nowitzki was an exceptional shooter for his size that made 88% of his free throws, nearly 50% of his field goals, and nearly 40% of his three-point shots. He is the tallest player to ever win the Three-Point Contest. In 2006-2007, he made the 50-40-90 club.
With a seven-foot frame, you might not expect a player to shoot as well as him, but his one-legged fadeaway might have been one of the most unstoppable moves ever. Nowitzki is the only European-born player to hit 30,000 career points. He is also the Mavericks’ all-time leader in points, rebounds, field goals, field goal attempts, three-pointers, three-point attempts, blocks, free throws, and free throw attempts. He is also the first European player to ever win the MVP, doing so in 2007. Finally, Nowitzki is the only player to record at least 31,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 3,000 assists, 1,000 steals, 1,000 blocks, and 1,000 three-point field goals.
5. Michael Jordan - 32,292
Jordan was a shooting guard that could also play small forward, a position he played later in his career. Jordan goes down as one of the most clutch athletes in the history of the game. With the Bulls, he won 25 games with field goals or free throws in the last 30 seconds. Jordan had a killer instinct and a “must-win” mentality when it came to playing every night.
Jordan was aggressive when he drove to the basket and was notable for drawing fouls from his opponents at a high rate. His 8,772 free throws are the 11th most in NBA history. As his career progressed, he developed post-game moves and a trademark fadeaway jump shot. That move was borderline untouchable. Three-point shooting was not his strength, once shooting 16% from downtown, but he developed it over time and finished his career with a 32% average.
4. Kobe Bryant - 33,643
Bryant was often regarded as the most dangerous scorer in the league. He drew comparisons to Jordan, whom he modeled his playing style after. Jordan owned a fall-away jump shot, which Bryant mirrored in his career. Bryant’s jap step and pause move, in which Bryant jabbed his non-pivot foot forward to let the defender relax but then brought the jab foot back, led to Bryant pushing off it to allow him to drive to the basket.
Bryant earned a reputation for taking shots in closing moments of tight games. It didn’t matter if he was double-teamed or triple-teamed. He was going to take the shot. Bryant enjoyed playing the villain because it made him even more competitive. The “Mamba Mentality” is a world phenomenon, where everyone wants to be the best on the floor.
3. LeBron James - 36,138
LeBron owns numerous “youngest to” scoring accolades, as well as the big one of being the youngest player to score 30,000 career points. That is why the active leader in points scorer is seen as the person to eventually break the all-time scoring leader. He could finish his career as high as 40,000 career points if he stays healthy.
On top of his current points race, LeBron is one of the best slashers and finishers in basketball. Even at 37 years old, he owns speed, quickness, and size that causes matchup problems for opposing teams. He can score in transition, where he is notorious for grabbing a defensive rebound and beating the defense downcourt. For most of his career, LeBron has controlled the offense, which has helped his playmaking become elite.
2. Karl Malone - 36,928
“The Mailman” might be the greatest power forward in the history of the NBA. He was consistent in his delivery to score points. He collected two MVPs, 11 First-Team All-NBA selections, and was a constant shooter at the free-throw line. Malone led the NBA in free throws and made a league-record seven finishes at the top. Even at the age of 40, Malone became the oldest player to log a triple-double and to be a starter on an NBA Finals bound team.
Over 1,476 games, which is fourth all-time, and 1,471 starts (most all-time), he scored about 25.0 points per game. Keep in mind, Malone never came off the bench after his rookie season. His pick-and-roll style and physical power made him tough to guard inside. He could run the court, which allowed him to convert fastbreak dunks off layups off assists by John Stockton. It should be no surprise that the second-best scorer ever had the all-time leading assists player on his team as well.
1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - 38,387
Outside of Shaq, the man with the skyhook jump shot was the most dominant low post threat in the NBA. In contrast to other low post players like Wilt and Shaq, Kareem was a slender player at 7-foot-2 and 240 pounds. In his early years, he used that frame for agility and speed. The skyhook shot contributed to his high career 55.9% shooting.
Teammates often called him “captain” because he had an even temperament, which made him coachable. Even before he joined the Lakers, Kareem was an amazing player in his own right, who won the MVP and guided the Bucks to a championship. Then, he joined the Lakers and the best point guard of all time in Magic Johnson, who often found ways to get him the ball, so he could do his thing around the basket.