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Erik Spoelstra: Miami Heat's LeBron James Could Score Like Michael Jordan

DALLAS, TX - DECEMBER 20:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat dribbles the ball against Jae Crowder #9 of the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center on December 20, 2012 in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Jeremy EcksteinFeatured ColumnistDecember 22, 2012

 

Erik Spoelstra said Miami Heat’s LeBron James could score like Michael Jordan.

LeBron James is having another MVP-caliber season for the defending champion Miami Heat. Count coach Erik Spoelstra as a growing admirer of his star player, including a veiled reference to another Michael Jordan comparison.

Spoelstra, as reported by Tom Haberstroh of ESPN.com, said of James that, “He could average 37 points a game, realistically I think.”

 

Club 37

Spoelstra’s speculation is to classify James as one of the elite scorers of all time. There are only three players in NBA history who averaged at least 37 points a game for a full season.

Rk.

Player

Team

PPG

Year

1

Wilt Chamberlain

Philadelphia Warriors

50.4

1961-62

2

Wilt Chamberlain

San Francisco Warriors

44.8

1962-63

3

Wilt Chamberlain

Philadelphia Warriors

38.4

1960-61

4

Elgin Baylor

Los Angeles Lakers

38.3

1961-62

5

Wilt Chamberlain

Philadelphia Warriors

37.6

1959-60

6

Michael Jordan

Chicago Bulls

37.1

1986-87

7

Wilt Chamberlain

San Francisco Warriors

36.9

1963-64

Thirty-seven points per game has only been accomplished by Jordan in nearly fifty years. Even scoring minded superstars such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dominique Wilkins, Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant have fallen well short of this benchmark.

Club 37 is exclusively for talented superstars who wish to score above all other facets of the game. It takes a lot of shots, but the price for 37 has never been a successful one.

 

To Score or to Win?

The top twenty scoring seasons have led to exactly zero championships.

Jordan’s champion 1992-93 Bulls saw their superstar score 32.5 per game. He tops the list for championship scoring leaders, but comes in at a mere No. 22 for scoring seasons.

Clearly one player’s scoring heroics is a tough burden to carry. Jordan’s Bulls did not feature other prolific scorers or a prolific bench.

The great teams have always sought to spread the scoring wealth. Magic Johnson’s Lakers and Larry Bird’s Celtics were constructed to include several Hall-of-Fame players with their prolific offenses.

Nobody scores and wins alone.

 

James and Bird

Bird’s three championship seasons featured his all-around talents and teammates more prominently.

Larry Bird                           Boston Celtics                                         21.2                 1980-81

Larry Bird                           Boston Celtics                                         24.2                 1983-84

Larry Bird                           Boston Celtics                                         25.8                 1985-86

 


Conversely, when Bird was asked to score more in his prime years, his team did not win championships. Injuries were certainly factors, but it was also an indicator of his team’s balance and success.

Larry Bird                           Boston Celtics                                         28.7                 1984-85

Larry Bird                           Boston Celtics                                         28.1                 1986-87

Larry Bird                           Boston Celtics                                         29.9                 1987-88

 

Meanwhile, James became a champion in 2012 following a season in which he averages 27.1 points per game. It’s a much greater scoring load than Bird carried because the Heat average fewer points per game than the mid-80s Celtics.

Currently, James ranks fifth in NBA, scoring at 25.2 points per game, and ranks behind Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and James Harden. They are all players who have a greater reputation for looking to score.

But James is special for being the consummate team player. His athleticism and strength are well-documented, but his basketball unselfishness and IQ are special assets. James, like Bird and Johnson, has elevated his teammates. They know he will shoot with efficient shot selection and look to get them the ball. It’s the trump card for championship chemistry.

As the season rolls along, Spoelstra’s comment about James’ scoring could have a curious twist. James is unlikely to approach 30 points per game, but his average will indicate just how well his team is playing.

If James must look to score more, it could be trouble for the Heat.

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