The NBA is, and has always been, about points. Scoring is king in today’s league, especially with the rise of three-pointers and flashy dunks. However, getting baskets is not easy at the highest level. It takes a special type of athlete to score consistently each game.
This guide takes a deep dive into such players by breaking down the most efficient scorers of all time. The following superstars didn’t just get a lot of points, they got more than anyone else in history. And they did it night after night after night.
Scoring, On a Different Level
The NBA is the highest-scoring sports league on Earth. Hundred-point games are the norm, with some contests going well beyond that. Games have always had a lot of baskets, but those baskets tend to come from numerous players. The exception to that is superstars.
More than any other league, the NBA is a world where big-name players matter. A single all star has a huge effect on a team, especially in today’s league. Not only can they help spread the court and create a full offense, they also score on a completely different level.
Three pointers have exacerbated that issue as well, causing the points ceiling to raise for many teams. Despite that, there are still some players who pushed far beyond what even today’s top scorers can do. A few who truly went above and beyond.
Good, but Not Enough
In the NBA, scoring 20 points a game makes someone an elite scorer. Anything beyond that puts them into all-time territory. For reference, in 2022-23 season, Joel Embiid currently leads the points per game category with 33.4. Luka Doncic is right behind him at 33.0.
Those numbers are extremely far beyond the norm, as both athletes are some of the best in the league. Even so, looking at their total career numbers shows just how tough it is to keep up that type of productivity. Giannis’ career ppg drops to 22.1 and Embiid’s drops down to 26.4.
Truly great players can have a season (or even a few seasons) of top scoring, but being able to do that over an entire career is a completely different beast. Some start slow, while others drop off at the end of their time in the NBA.
Even the league’s all-time leading scorer, Kareem Abdul Jabbar is 17th all-time with 24.61 ppg. That’s why all of the truly great ppg leaders weren’t just good players, they were some of the best to ever step onto a court.
The Best of the Best
In the history of the NBA, only seven players have averaged more than 26 points per game. That mark is almost unbelievable, which is why all seven are either current or future hall of famers. However, two truly standout stars hit more than 30.
The first, unsurprisingly, is Michael Jordan. The G.O.A.T hit the ground running and only got better as his career progressed. He averaged more than 30 points a game in eight of his 15 seasons, hitting a high of 37.1 during the 1986-1987 year.
That netted him a total of 30.12 ppg, which is still the highest of all time. The only other player to average 30 or more is Wilt Chamberlain. Known for his high-scoring games, Chamberlain averaged 30.07 ppg, and he did so without the aid of the three-point line.
Those two are incredibly impressive because, not only are they the only ones in the 30 club, there’s a big gap between them and third place. Next on the all-time ppg list is Elgin Baylor with 27.36. That’s a large dropoff and shows the unmatched scoring ability of Jordan and Wilt.
Still, Baylor’s mark is impressive nonetheless. Right behind him are the only two active players in the top ten, Lebron James and Kevin Durant. Both players have had extremely strong careers, and they have averaged 27.13 and 27.18 ppg respectively.
From there, the top rounds out with Jerry West (27.11) and Allen Iverson (26.6). The only other current players in the top twenty are James Harden, Damian Lillard, and Stephen Curry. That shows how hard consistent scoring can be.
Scoring in the NBA is easy for great players, but keeping up that scoring for an entire career isn’t so simple. The all time ppg leaders had multiple incredible seasons and could put up points regardless of the situation.
Staying dominant for an extended period of time is something only a few players are able to do, but never having a down or bad season is a different level entirely. There are many current players off to a hot start, but they still have a long way to go.