Sunday, April 21 2024
Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Lakers
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The last time Kevin Durant faced LeBron James in an NBA game, he hadn’t even cracked the top 30 on the league’s all-time scoring list while James was still on the outside of the top five looking in. That game was five years ago, a 2018 Christmas date between James’ Los Angeles Lakers and Durant’s Golden State Warriors. Durant has since moved twice, first to the Brooklyn Nets and now the Phoenix Suns, and both have moved up the league’s all-time scoring list.

James notably became the NBA’s all-time leading scorer last season when he passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in a February battle with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Durant hasn’t climbed quite so far, but he’s making steady progress on James, and in their long-awaited rematch on Thursday, the Suns’ star moved one notch up the ladder when he passed Houston Rockets legend Hakeem Olajuwon for 12th place with his 26,947th point on this late game-tying layup.

Durant still has plenty of room to climb this season. He needs less than 500 points to pass Moses Malone and crack the top 10, and at 35 years old, he has a real chance to land in the top five when it’s all said and done. Getting there would mean reaching 32,293 points for his career, one above fifth-place Michael Jordan’s total and 5,344 away from where he is now. On his career average of 27.3 points per game, it would take him roughly 196 games to get there. That’s three relatively healthy seasons, a reasonable goal for Durant to set moving forward.

Of course, that’s a long-term benchmark. Durant’s primary goal in the here and now was helping the Suns steal a road win at Los Angeles without Devin Booker and Bradley Beal. Phoenix came close, leading by as many as many as 12 to start the fourth quarter, but not even the NBA’s 12th-greatest scorer could hold off No. 1 as James scored 10 fourth-quarter points to lead the comeback and the Lakers walked away with the 100-95 victory.

It likely wasn’t the outcome Durant envisioned for his first matchup with James in five years, but at least the four-time scoring champion walked away with a bit of history on Thursday night.



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