LeBron James moves into fourth place on all-time assist list, passing Mark Jackson, Steve Nash

NEW YORK — LeBron James is now fourth in NBA history in assists, passing Mark Jackson and Steve Nash in the Lakers’ game Tuesday against the Knicks. Here’s what you need to know:

  • James, 38, is the only player in the top five all time in points and assists. He needed eight assists to pass Jackson (10,334) and nine to pass Nash (10,335), which he reached in the fourth quarter.
  • James bounced one into Thomas Bryant for a layup (and foul shot) with 4:01 left in the third quarter to tie Jackson for fifth. With 10:06 left in the fourth, he rifled one in the corner to Troy Brown for a 3 to pass Jackson. The next time down, he dropped one off to Bryant for a dunk with 9:37 remaining to pass Nash.
  • John Stockton is the NBA’s all-time leader with 15,806 assists. Jason Kidd is second with 12,091 while Chris Paul (11,246 assists) is third. Paul is the only active player ahead of James; Paul’s Phoenix Suns were off Tuesday.
  • LeBron remains second in league history in scoring. He entered Tuesday’s game trailing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar by just 117 points.

The Athletic’s instant analysis:

More than just a scorer

James is still chasing down Kareem, but in the meantime reached another absurd, lofty milestone in a statistical category he claims to care more about anyway. For someone who is just days away from becoming the game’s all-time scoring king — in a sport where the idea is to put the ball in the bucket — LeBron has nevertheless insisted throughout his 20 pro seasons that he is not a “scorer.” It’s a goofy concept, but climbing into the top 5 in NBA history in assists adds a little heft to his argument.

LeBron has never averaged fewer than 5.9 assists per game (his average his rookie) season and in 2019-20, when the Lakers played him the entire season at point guard, he led the NBA with 10.2 assists per game. This year, with his pursuit of Abdul-Jabbar on full blast and Anthony Davis missing most of the season with injury, James still entered play averaging 7.1 assists to go with his 30.1 points.

For years he has been considered one of the best pure passers in league history. At 6-8 and with impeccable court vision, not to mention a willingness to move the ball, LeBron has made a career of passing out of double teams, driving and kicking to open teammates, throwing skip passes from one side of the court to the other, and simply finding shooters who didn’t know they were open until the ball somehow hit their hands. —Vardon

Memories at MSG

LeBron has always loved playing at Madison Square Garden, and circumstance had kept him away from taking the NBA’s grandest stage since Jan. 22, 2020. He was injured for the Lakers’ trip here in 2021, and last season was suspended for the game.

So you almost knew he was going to do something special. In 28 previous regular-season games at MSG, LeBron averaged 28.1 points and won 20 of the games. He was a 50-percent shooter from the field and a nearly 40-percent tosser from 3-point range. More than the numbers, though, there is always a vibe when the proverbial “face of the NBA” comes through the league’s most famous arena, in New York City, where LeBron is often on a billboard or two.

One of my all-time favorite LeBron quotes was uttered here, during a morning shootaround a few years ago before a game here when he was with Cleveland. He said, “it’s a Friday night in New York City, what more can you ask for?” —Vardon

How high could he climb?

Paul is still playing, though at age 37 and with lower leg injuries piling up, his time on an NBA court could be short.

James, meanwhile, has suggested he intends to play past age 40. Assuming he does — give him, what, three more seasons after this one, maybe four — James would need to average about 439 assists each year to catch Kidd. At some point, James is going to slow down as a scoring machine and those assists will rise. It seems far-fetched to think he has another 4,000 assists in him to catch Stockton, but by the time it’s over for LeBron he could actually be the game’s all-time leading scorer and second-leading passer. —Vardon

Required reading

(Photo: Steph Chambers/Getty Images)


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