The Los Angeles Lakers upcoming season is set to be a historic one for the legendary franchise.
The most decorated team in the NBA is among the favorites to win the 2022-23 championship. If so, that would give the Lakers a record-breaking 18 titles.
The season also marks Darvin Ham's first as a head coach in the NBA, and first as the main-man running the Lake Show. Ham will have to keep a watchful eye on the team's "Big Three" of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook.
The trio did not seem to be compatible on the court last season and the front office hasn't exactly given Russ a ringing endorsement this offseason, openly admitting to dangling him in multiple trade talks, and willing to deal one first-round pick to move him, but not two.
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The upcoming campaign also marks LeBron's 20th year playing in the NBA. In all likelihood, if James remains healthy, he is on schedule to surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's all-time scoring record of 38,387 points sometime this season.
James is currently second on the list with 37,062 points in his prestigious career. He's only 1,325 points away from the record, which may seem like a lot to some people, but not in actuality.
Over the last 18 seasons, LeBron has averaged at least 25 points per game, and averaged a whopping 30.3 points per game last season. Davis was injured for most of those games, but James scored over 50 points twice in a three-game stretch in March. If he were to have similar games early in the season, the record could be broken sooner, rather than later.
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Oddsmakers believe it's inevitable the record will fall this season. According to BetUS, the odds that LeBron will break the record during the 22-23 NBA season are currently -2000. That means somebody would have to place a wager of $2000 just to win $100. Comparably, the odds are +800 that James doesn't break Abdul-Jabbar's record this season, meaning a bet of $100 would win $800 in the unlikely event he is unable to surpass Kareem. The implied odds are greater than 95% James will break the record this season.
James himself spoke about it during Lakers media day on September 26th.
"The only time I've thought about it is when someone has posted it on social media and I've been scrolling through my feed and seen it," said James. "Every single time I'm kind of in awe of it. They breakdown if I do this, or if I average this, if I'm available for these games then I can break it here."
Where, when, and how are certainly questions on everyone's mind as the regular season quickly approaches. It's not only on the minds of fans, but from the aforementioned comment, James himself.
The oddsmakers have thought about it too. So much so that Barry Barger, senior betting analyst at BetUS, had to create additional prop bets to make LeBron's chase of history even more interesting to bettors.
"We realized that the odds strongly favor LeBron breaking Kareem's career scoring record," said Barger. "So we added some other elements to this prop bet to make it more interesting for our customers."
Bettors can currently place bets on where LeBron will break the record (-175 on the road, and +145 at home), when he will break the record (even money if on or before Jan. 3, and -130 for after Jan. 31). You can even bet on the exact game he will break the record. Finally, bettors can also place wagers on how LeBron will break the record (-135 on a two-point field goal, +200 on a three-pointer, and +500 on a free throw).
"To know that I'm on the verge of breaking probably the most sought after record in the NBA is super humbling for myself," said James. "Obviously, Kareem has had his differences with some of my views and some of the things that I do, but at the end of the day, to be mentioned in the same breath as a guy that wore this same [Lakers] uniform, a guy that is a staple of this franchise, and a guy that does a lot off the field as well is super dope. Every time my name is mentioned with the greats…it's super humbling."
James said he's not going to put pressure on himself to break the record this season, and will let it unfold organically. If James maintains his career average of 27.1 points per game this season, he will break the record in his 50th game. That would happen to come on January 28 against the rival Boston Celtics. However, the oddsmakers are going off of his 25 points per game average for the first 18 seasons of his career, which would put the record-breaking game on January 31 against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
These two potential games are all based off projections that James remains healthy through the first 50 games of the season and doesn't take any games off for "load management." The Lakers have five back-to-back games on their schedule prior to the aforementioned games in Boston and New York, some or all of which James could miss.
For reference, James missed 14 of the Lakers first 50 games last season, nine of the first 50 in 2020-21, two during the championship season in 2019-20, and 16 in his inaugural season with the Lakers in 2018-19. That's an average of just over 10 games through the first 50 during his Lakers tenure.
If James were to miss 10 of the team's first 50 games this season, and still averaged between 25 and 27 points per game, he would likely break the record either in Game 60 at Crypto,com arena against the reigning champion Golden State Warriors, or Game 61 in Dallas against the Mavericks.
Regardless, James' chase of history is upon us, and we will all be watching attentively throughout the season to see when and where he surpasses Kareem and becomes the NBA's All-Time leading scorer.