The King, a team with a new ring, and other NBA greats with milestones as they begin rising on the all-time lists.
Here are five big-name milestones to watch out for during the NBA's 75th anniversary season.
The King moves past The Mailman
One of the best things to happen to basketball is that LeBron James has maintained a healthy career.
Because of this, he finds himself in contention to be the all-time points leader when he finally decides to hang up his sneakers. While the four-time NBA champion won't get there this year, he should pass Karl Malone for second all-time if he stays on the court.
MORE: Milestone baskets of LeBron's career | LeBron leads list of active players on NBA 75
James came into the 2021-22 season 1,561 points away from passing the former Jazz legend. In order to move past Malone, LeBron needs to average just a shade over 19 ppg. LeBron has at least averaged 20 ppg in each of his 18 seasons.
The question then becomes, how far will he be from passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar after the season concludes. I would anticipate seeing this ceremonious event take place after the Lakers have clinched a playoff spot sometime in the spring.
Curry cements status as 3-point King
Questionable shot selection, no size, and a lack of physicality. Those were just some of the criticisms of Steph Curry leading up to the 2009 NBA Draft. Guess who proved them all wrong?
That's right. The other NBA legend born in Akron, Ohio (I suppose you can guess who the first one is, hint: he's the first player mentioned in this article) is on the verge of making history. Curry came into the season just 141 three-pointers shy of eclipsing Ray Allen for the all-time list.
With the exception of a couple of injury-filled seasons, the 7-time All-Star has never had a season with fewer than 150 makes. Basically, if Steph stays healthy, expect a new long-distance leader. Expect this record to fall sometime after the All-Star break.
CP3 moves up the steals and assists ranks
Chris Paul is one of the few classic "pass-first, shoot-second" point guards in the league. While the "Point God" is still chasing his first NBA title, he could find himself passing some other NBA greats in steals and assists.
As the season debuts, Paul is fifth in all-time assists and only 60 assists away from climbing past both Mark Jackson and Steve Nash to move into sole possession of third place. Expect this to occur between Thanksgiving and Christmas. After that, Paul will be looking up at Jason Kidd and John Stockton who have between 2,000 and 5,000 more assists than the 11-time All-Star.
Similarly, Paul is 113 steals behind Gary "the Glove" Payton. Paul is consistent atop the leaderboard in takeaways and if CP3 plays the full year, expect him to pass Payton sometime in late-March or April.
During opening week, he became the first player in NBA history to have at least 20k points and 10k assists.
20,000 points.- NBA (@NBA) October 23, 2021
10,000 assists.@CP3 stands alone.#NBA75 pic.twitter.com/y7i0WaBZDC
Dwight cleans up the glass
Dwight Howard has certainly seen his career develop a little differently than many expected after he led the Orlando Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals. That said, he has remained consistent at getting his team second chances and making sure the other team doesn't do the same, aka the man gets rebounds.
As he begins his third stint with the Lakers, the former no. 1 pick is 193 rebounds behind Nate Thurmond to move into the top 10 and 392 rebounds behind Kevin Garnett for ninth place.
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Howard should pass Thurmond in February and hopes to pass Garnett late in the year, if not and assuming the eight-time All-Star plays at least one more year, Howard can expect to pass the Big Ticket early next season.
Another new NBA champion
Since the NBA-ABA Merger in 1976, only once has the NBA seen a new champion for five or more consecutive years (1976-1981). This included Bill Walton being the best big man in the NBA (and long before he was a colorful TV analyst), Washington and Seattle winning the franchises' only titles, and the beginning of Larry Bird-Magic Johnson rivalry.
Since then, the NBA has not seen a new winner in five straight years. Guess what? It could happen this year. Over the past four seasons, we've seen the Warriors (2018), Raptors (2019), Lakers (2020) and Bucks (2021) take the crown.
Should a team like the Nets or Suns make it to the promise-land, we will be witnessing history. The Lakers are obviously poised to be in the running come May and June and you can never count out a team with Curry, especially if Klay Thompson returns to full strength, but there is no guarantee that either will make it out of the Western Conference.
The Raptors are likely facing rebuilding so that leaves the Nets as the sole franchise in the Eastern Conference that could continue this streak.
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