John Stockton. Jason Kidd. Chris Paul. Steve Nash. Mark Jackson. Magic Johnson. They are six of the greatest passers in the history of basketball, and on Sunday, they were joined in the record books by LeBron James. The 19-year veteran has been among the best playmakers in the NBA for almost two decades, and now he has the numbers to prove it.
James entered Sunday’s tilt with the Phoenix Suns having assisted on 9,998 of his teammates’ baskets. He needed only two more to reach the ultra-exclusive 10,000 assists club, and sure enough, he got there early in the game with this dime.
James’ combination of scoring and passing has been unique in NBA history since the moment he arrived in the NBA. He is the only player in the top 10 in NBA history in both points and assists, and with 10,000 assists now in the books, he is the only player with at least 25,000 points and 10,000 assists. Having notched his 10,000th rebound earlier this season, he is also the first player in NBA history to earn a career triple-quintuple: 10,000 points, rebounds and assists.
James has remained one of the NBA’s dominant offensive threats well into his 30s. He led the NBA in assists during his age-35 season, and now, two years later, he is making a real run at the scoring title. Should he win it at 37, he would become the oldest player in league history to do so, replacing Michael Jordan, who did so at 35.
James reached the 10,000 assist mark against the team that employs another member of that club: Chris Paul’s Suns. Sadly, Paul, James’ close friend, was unable to play in Sunday’s matchup due to injury. They are the only two active players with 10,000 assists, though current James teammate Russell Westbrook, who entered Sunday’s game with 8,529 has a chance to get there some day.
With 10,000 assists now in the bank, James should be able to climb the all-time leaderboard relatively quickly. Johnson, Jackson and Nash all have below 10,400 assists to their names, so James should able to reach the top-four at some point next season. From there, it will be a matter of how long he and Paul hang on. Kidd’s 12,091 career assists are attainable for both of them should they play long enough. Kidd is currently in second place. Stockton, with 15,806 assists, is the all-time leader, and James has almost no chance of catching him. He’ll have to settle for becoming the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, which he can do next season by passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Abdul-Jabbar is nowhere near the top of the assists leaderboard. Stockton couldn’t score at anywhere near the clip LeBron has. What makes James so special is that he does virtually everything at an elite level. While chasing an absurd age-37 scoring title on Sunday, he just casually managed to rack up his 10,000th assist in the process.