The game of basketball is much more than just scoring the ball, but it is the most effective way to win games. Scorers throughout NBA history have proven that they can fight off adversity and always be the ones to get their team baskets whenever needed.
A player that is living by that mantra this year is LeBron James, whose Los Angeles Lakers haven’t won a game since the All-Star break where LeBron has scored under 50 points. That is an incredible amount of reliance on one of the oldest players in the league who is scoring at a rate no other player his age di lui has ever been able to.
James is in a dogfight with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, and Kevin Durant over who will take the scoring title home. If LeBron is the one to do so, he will become the oldest player in NBA history to win the scoring title by a wide margin. So who are the ones who have already achieved this feat?
10. Pete Maravich – 31.1 PPG (29 years and 313 days)
1976-77 NBA Season
‘Pistol’ Pete Maravich could have been remembered as one of the greatest players of his generation. He was an automatic scorer who averaged 24.2 points over his relatively short career. Maravich played 10 seasons in the NBA for 4 teams, but the year he led the NBA in scoring was in 1976-77 with the New Orleans Jazz.
Maravich is undoubtedly one of the most gifted offensive players in NBA history with his game in 1977 being something that would translate easily to the modern NBA. He proved his ability di lui as an all-time guard with his uncanny ability to make consistent shots over the floor while also being able to finish at the rim. Maravich’s career ended early due to injuries and he’d end up passing away at the age of 40.
9. Allen Iverson – 30.7 PPG (29 years and 328 days)
2004-05 NBA Season
‘The Answer’ Allen Iverson will always be remembered as one of the biggest cultural icons to come out of the NBA. His popularity of him in the early-2000s was unrivaled, with his electrifying performances on the court helping attract even more fans to his game. While his best season di lui was the year he won MVP, his performances di lui across the 2004-05 season helped him lead the league in scoring and beat Maravich to the 9th spot by 15 days. Iverson had previously led the league in scoring thrice, and this was his fourth and final scoring title by him.
Iverson would drop his career-high of 60 points this season against the Orlando Magic. In addition, his efforts di lui were instrumental in helping the 76ers make the playoffs this year. Iverson’s 76ers career would end a season after this when he was traded to the Detroit Piston in 2006.
8. George Gervin – 32.3 PPG (30 years and 3 days)
1981-82 NBA Season
‘The Iceman’ George Gervin is one of the most underappreciated players in NBA history. When we talk about the greatest scorers in NBA history, Gervin’s name belongs in that conversation. The man is a four-time scoring champion, with his final title coming in the 1981-82 season. This was Gervin’s fourth scoring title in five years, solidifying his status di lui as arguably the best scorer in the league before a certain UNC Tar Heel was drafted to the Chicago Bulls (more on him later).
The Spurs had a great regular season with Gervin in 1981-82. The team finished second in the Western Conference but would get swept by the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. This was the last season Gervin competed at such a level for an NBA title. As a result, Gervin is arguably one of the best players in NBA history to never win an NBA title.
7. Michael Jordan – 32.6 PPG (30 years and 72 days)
1992-93 NBA Season
This is the first time Michael Jordan appears on this list, but we all know it isn’t even close to the last time we will see ‘His Airness’ appear on this. Jordan’s case for being the greatest of all time is very compelling when we analyze seasons like the 1992-93 one, as Jordan would not only win a scoring title but would also complete the first Chicago Bulls three-peat.
There is nothing one can say about Jordan’s offensive game that hasn’t been said before. This season was the regular Jordan special of beautiful mid-range fadeaways and explosive finishes at the rim, and he exploited his full arsenal to average 32 points and become the scoring champion.
6. James Harden – 34.3 PPG (30 years and 247 days)
2019-20 NBA Season
James Harden has had better seasons as a scorer, with the season prior to this one standing out with a mind-boggling 36.3 point average. However, him repeating the feat next season with a 34.3 point average is just as impressive considering Harden was playing alongside Russell Westbrook, who averaged 27 points himself.
While Harden was having some really bad nights occasionally, he was explosive offensively through most of the season. There were serious conversations around him possibly averaging 40 points at a point in the season. Harden being one of the oldest scoring leaders isn’t something anyone registered at the time, but ‘The Beard’ deserves his flowers now.
5. Jerry West – 31.2 PPG (31 years and 337 days)
1969-70 NBA Season
‘The Logo’ Jerry West is one of the most skilled guards to ever pick up a basketball. While it is unfortunate that his trophy case di lui was left bare because of the Boston Celtics, West has plenty of individual accomplishments to boast. One of the highlights in his trophy case of him is the 1969-70 season scoring title.
West was coming off being the only Finals loser to be named Finals MVP and was on a revenge tour to win his first NBA title. West was hitting defenders with moves nobody had seen before, with his ability to control the ball vexing everyone he played with at the time. He had better scoring seasons before, but this was the year he led the league in scoring despite being in the latter half of his career. West only had 9 games where he scored under 20 points and was a consistent scorer the entire season.
4. Stephen Curry – 32 PPG (33 years and 47 days)
2020-21 NBA Season
The reigning scoring champion Stephen Curry had a historic battle with Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal last season to clinch the scoring title on the final day of the season. That made Curry the oldest scoring title winner whose initials aren’t MJ. It was a historic offensive year for Curry, who tried to single-handedly carry the Warriors before they were beaten in the play-in by the Los Angeles Lakers.
Curry looked like he would win another scoring title this season, which would help him be third in this list, but a slow few months have taken his name out of the running. Despite that, the show Curry put on almost every night of the 2020-21 season to mark his full-time return to basketball after injuries plagued him in 2019-20. Curry had a 60-point game, two 50-point games, and 7 40-point games in one of the best offensive seasons of his career.
3. Michael Jordan – 30.4 PPG (33 years and 72 days)
1995-96 NBA Season
Just like Jordan did with NBA titles, he managed to three-peat with the NBA scoring title as well. MJ is a 10-time scoring champion, with his final three trophies solidifying him as one of the greatest scorers with a very long peak. The 1995-96 season was Jordan’s second season after returning from baseball and helped the team return to their championship form by winning the first title of the second three-peat by the Bulls.
Jordan earned the title through consistency. There were no eye-popping scoring performances, but MJ guaranteed that he will show up every game and do his best of him. He had one fifty-point game against his old rivals in the Detroit Pistons and a couple of 40-point games, but Jordan scored 30 or more a whopping 39 times this season. Consistency is key, and Jordan would go on to prove that.
2. Michael Jordan – 29.6 PPG (34 years and 72 days)
1996-97 NBA Season
After securing his fourth NBA title, Jordan came back the next season just as determined to continue winning NBA titles. However, there was a slight drop-off in MJ’s scoring volume, but it was still more than enough to lead the league in scoring. The season prior, MJ earned the crown by having consistent performances in the high-30s. This season saw MJ do a lot of the same, scoring 30 points 36 times this season.
He had two 50-point games, with a season-high 51 points coming against the formidable New York Knicks, with memorable performances also coming against the Seattle SuperSonics (45), Cleveland Cavaliers (45), and Miami Heat (50). The Bulls went on to win another NBA title with Jordan leading the way.
1. Michael Jordan – 28.7 PPG (35 years and 72 days)
1997-98 NBA Season
Finally, we get to ‘The Last Dance’. Jordan’s final season with the Bulls saw him complete the teams’ second three-peat, but also saw Jordan become the oldest person in NBA history to lead the league in scoring. While LeBron James is trying to claim this record for himself, Jordan earned this spot for helping his team through a tumultuous season to actually end up as NBA champions.
Jordan’s scoring averages continued to dip from past seasons, but his effectiveness stayed the same. He didn’t have any 50-point games this season, with his highest point total being 49 against the LA Clippers. In addition, Jordan wasn’t scoring 30 as regularly as he did in prior seasons, getting to that mark only 23 times this year. Despite it all, Jordan still outperformed the rest and walked away from the Bulls as a 10-time scoring champion and a six-time NBA champion. Maybe he is just as much of an ageless wonder as LeBron James? We’ll find out by the end of the 21-22 season.