The NBA all-time scoring list
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The NBA all-time scoring list

The NBA has enjoyed its fair share of great scorers. Here, we'll take a look back at the players who scored the most points of all time, those who always fill it up. Walking buckets, if you will, including some of the most successful players in NBA history.  

All stats were compiled using Basketball Reference and are accurate as of the end of the 2022-2023 NBA season.

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1. LeBron James: 38,652 points (active)

LeBron James: 38,652 points (active)
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

It's unfair to fit Lebron's career in a few paragraphs. However, the King himself just became the NBA's all-time scoring leader in the middle of the 2022-23 season.

He was drafted as the Chosen One in Cleveland and left the Cavaliers to "take his talents to South Beach," where he teamed up with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh for the Miami Heat. In the prime of his career, LeBron won back-to-back championships in the 305. Then, he returned to his hometown of Cleveland and won the Cavaliers their first championship in 2016. The Cavs beat the 73-9 Golden State Warriors and came back from a 3-1 series deficit. 

With nothing left to prove in Cleveland, LeBron went to Hollywood and signed with the Los Angeles Lakers. He won his fourth championship in the COVID-19 bubble in honor of the late, great Kobe Bryant.

LeBron could score any way he wanted. But he adapted to changes in the game and got better at shooting the three as his career went on. 

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2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 38,387 points

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 38,387 points
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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was drafted first overall by the Milwaukee Bucks and was hailed as the city's savior. He gave Milwaukee a ring in 1971 with Oscar Robertson. After the fact, he went to the bright lights of Los Angeles and was part of the Showtime Lakers (Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Michael Cooper). All in all, he won six MVPs, six championships and went to an NBA-record 19 All-Star Games. He was famous for the Skyhook shot. It was his signature move.

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3. Karl Malone: 36,928 points

Karl Malone: 36,928 points
The Sporting News-Contributor-Getty Images

Malone played the majority of his career with the Utah Jazz. He was a big power forward who was a bully in the paint. The dynamic duo of Malone and point guard John Stockton gave Jazz fans a lot to cheer for. They were a pick-and-roll nightmare. They took the Jazz to back-to-back finals appearances and lost to Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls both times. Since leaving the game behind, Malone lives in privacy and doesn't make a lot of public appearances.

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4. Kobe Bryant: 33,643 points

Kobe Bryant: 33,643 points
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Kobe Bryant wanted to be the best. He modeled his game after Michael Jordan and tried to imitate him every step of the way. Whether it was with their identical scoring or their competitive mentality, Kobe and Michael Jordan were very similar players. Kobe succeeded at trying to be his idol by winning five championships, 18 All-Stars, two scoring titles and the Slam Dunk Contest. He also scored 81 points in one game and 60 points in his last game. He went down as the greatest Laker of all time. 

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5. Michael Jordan: 32,292 points

Michael Jordan: 32,292 points
RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

Air Jordan is the GOAT. He won six championships, five MVPs, 10 scoring titles, Defensive Player of the Year, and Rookie of the Year. Jordan became a star at the University of North Carolina and was an immediate sensation the minute he put on a Chicago Bulls jersey. He had to wait seven years to win his first championship because of the Pistons, Celtics and Lakers. He was a beloved athlete and a global phenomenon thanks to his personal brand and sneakers. After Chicago, he retired with the Wizards. His incredible story is told in "The Last Dance" on Netflix. 

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6. Dirk Nowitzki: 31,560 points

Dirk Nowitzki: 31,560 points
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Nowitzki, the best European player ever, played 21 seasons--all with the Dallas Mavericks. He possessed incredible touch for a 7-footer and his post fadeaway was unstoppable. He won the Mavs their first championship in 2011. The outgunned Mavs beat the Miami Heat Big Three of LeBron, Wade and Bosh in six games. Dirk was the lone superstar on that team and he's one of the most loyal players ever. While the duo of Dirk and Steve Nash never won a championship together in the early 2000s, they were still a great team.  

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7. Wilt Chamberlain: 31,419 points

Wilt Chamberlain: 31,419 points
Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

He's the only player to score 100 points in a game. He was a freak of nature who could fill the stat sheet every single night. He led the NBA in scoring seven times and rebounding 11 times. He averaged 50 points and 25 rebounds in 1962! Chamberlain and the 76ers beat the Warriors in the 1967 Finals for his first ring. Then, he won it all again with the 1972 Lakers, one of the best teams ever. Led by Chamberlain and Jerry West, they went 69-13 in the regular season and cruised through the playoffs en route to a championship. 

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8. Shaquille O'Neal: 28,596 points

Shaquille O'Neal: 28,596 points
STAN HONDA-Staff-Getty Images

One of the most entertaining players to ever step foot on the hardwood floor, Shaq was simply the man. Standing at 7-foot-1, 325 pounds, he was an unstoppable force in the paint. He also broke the backboard on multiple occasions. 

Drafted by the Orlando Magic, Shaq took them to the finals with Penny Hardaway. After falling out with the Magic, he joined forces with Kobe and the Lakers. They went on a legendary three-peat and are the best duo ever. He left L.A. and won another ring with Dwayne Wade in Miami. He's now an analyst on "Inside the NBA" on TNT. 

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9. Carmelo Anthony: 28,289 points

Carmelo Anthony: 28,289 points
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony broke onto the scene by winning March Madness with Syracuse in 2003. He was drafted by the Denver Nuggets and is part of the 2003 NBA Draft Class, which also included LeBron, Wade and Bosh. He was a franchise player with the Denver Nuggets and teamed up with an aging Allen Iverson for a few seasons. In 2009, he led the Nuggets to the Western Conference Finals, where they lost to the Lakers. 

He was sent to the New York Knicks in a blockbuster trade. He was a star in the Big Apple too. He won the scoring title in 2013. He also scored 62 points in Madison Square Garden during the 2014 season. He ended his career as a solid role player with Portland and Los Angeles after being one of the league's finest scorers for over a decade. Hoodie Melo won't be forgotten. 

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10. Moses Malone: 27,409 points

Moses Malone: 27,409 points
Malcolm Emmons - USA TODAY Sports

Malone started in the ABA before dominating with the Houston Rockets. He led them to the finals in 1981, losing to Larry Bird's Celtics. He struggling to win it all in Houston and teamed up with a star teammate in Julius Erving with the 76ers. They won it all their first year together. Malone led the league in rebounding six times. He played until he was 39. 

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11. Elvin Hayes: 27,313 points

Elvin Hayes: 27,313 points
Focus On Sport-Contributor-Getty Images

Believe it or not, but Hayes won the NBA scoring title as a rookie! He played for the Rockets and the Bullets. He had his best years with the Bullets, where he won the championship alongside Wes Unseld in 1978. 

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12. Hakeem Olajuwon: 26,946 points

Hakeem Olajuwon: 26,946 points
Mitchell Layton-Contributor-Getty Images.

The best all-around center ever, Olajuwon was a tough player to stop. He could score at will but his most famous move was the Dream Shake. When Michael Jordan retired, he capitalized on the opportunity and won back-to-back finals. He was also a great shooting big man for his era. Olajuwon is the NBA's all-time leader in blocks by a wide margin. Most importantly, he proved you can never underestimate the heart of a champion. 

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13. Kevin Durant: 26,892 points (active)

Kevin Durant: 26,892 points (active)
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Durant was drafted second overall by the Seattle SuperSonics in 2007. When the team relocated and became the Oklahoma City Thunder, Durant paired up with Russell Westbrook and James Harden. They went to the finals in 2012 and lost to the Heat. He won four scoring titles in Oklahoma City. He left the Thunder and shocked the world by signing with the Golden State Warriors, one of the Thunder's biggest rivals at the time. Durant won back-to-back championships there. Since then, Durant has had stints with the Brooklyn Nets and Phoenix Suns. 

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14. Oscar Robertson: 26,710 points

Oscar Robertson: 26,710 points
Focus On Sport-Contributor-Getty Images

Robertson was a walking triple-double. In fact, he was the first player to average a triple-double in a season. He was a great scorer but his all-around game was even greater. He won a ring with Kareem and the Bucks in 1971. Robertson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1980

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15. Dominique Wilkins: 26,668 points

Dominique Wilkins: 26,668 points
Mitchell Layton-Contributor-Getty Images

One of the greatest dunkers of all time, Wilkins was a must-watch player from the 1980s. He led the league in scoring in 1986 and is a two-time Slam Dunk champion. He's one of the best players to never win a ring. The Human Highlight Film retired as the Atlanta Hawks' all-time leading scorer. 

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16. Tim Duncan: 26,496 points

Tim Duncan: 26,496 points
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The best power forward ever, Duncan played out his entire career with the Spurs. He was drafted first overall in 1997 out of Wake Forest and was the missing piece of the puzzle that turned the Spurs into the best team in the West over the past 20 years. Altogether, he won five championships with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Duncan also won two MVPs, 15 All-Stars, and Rookie of the Year. He was nicknamed the Big Fundamental because he stuck to the basics and kept his game simple. 

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17. Paul Pierce: 26,397 points

Paul Pierce: 26,397 points
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Pierce was nicknamed "The Truth" for his game. After the duo of Pierce and Antione Walker fizzled out, the Celtics struggled. Pierce wanted out. In 2008, the Celtics kept Pierce on board by trading for superstars Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. They won the championship in 2008 and Pierce was crowned finals MVP. He was a versatile scorer with a masterful midrange jumper. After the Celtics, he also played for the Nets, Wizards and Clippers. 

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18. John Havlicek: 26,395 points

John Havlicek: 26,395 points
Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

Havlicek began his career as a sixth man and eventually turned into one of the best scorers of his era. He was a very selfless teammate and he won eight championships in Boston. He's the Celtics' all-time leading scorer and he won finals MVP in 1974.

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19. Kevin Garnett: 26,071 points

Kevin Garnett: 26,071 points
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most passionate players to ever grace the hardwood floor, Garnett was a tough power forward who was an enforcer in the paint. He was drafted straight out of high school by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Slowly but surely, he turned the franchise into winners with his basketball talent and leadership. In 2004, he won league MVP and led the Wolves to the Western Conference Finals, where they lost to the Shaq-Kobe Lakers. It was the best season in franchise history. He was traded to the Boston Celtics in 2008, where he teamed up with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. That season, he won Defensive Player of the Year and guided the Celtics to yet another NBA Championship. He ended his career by reuniting with the Timberwolves.

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20. Vince Carter: 25,728 points

Vince Carter: 25,728 points
Jed Jacobsohn-Staff-Getty Images

Carter had an interesting career in the NBA. He was drafted by the Toronto Raptors to bring the game of basketball to an international market of fans. Carter accomplished this. His high-flying dunks captivated fans and won him the Slam Dunk Contest in 2000. He led the Raptors to their first playoff appearance and was their superstar for years. Then, he went to the New Jersey Nets and was a star there too. 

Towards the end of his career, he turned into a great role player and was respected by younger players who idolized him when they were growing up. He played an NBA record 22 seasons. It's a shame Carter never got to win a ring. 

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21. Alex English: 25,613

Alex English: 25,613
Focus On Sport-Contributor-Getty Images

English won the scoring title in 1983. He's most remembered for his run with the Denver Nuggets. In 1985, he led them to the Western Conference Finals, where they were defeated by the Showtime Lakers. He holds several scoring records for the Nuggets and was one of the game's biggest names during the 1980s. 

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22. Reggie Miller: 25,279 points

Reggie Miller: 25,279 points
RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

Miller was a prolific shooter in his era. Basketball in the '90s was all about toughness, but Miller carved out a place for himself with his scoring. He's a member of the 50-40-90 Club and he was a five-time All-Star. He played his entire career with the Indiana Pacers. He was as clutch as they come and his feud with New York Knicks superfan Spike Lee was incredible. He led the Pacers to the finals in 2000 and they fell short of winning to the Shaq-Kobe Lakers. Miller is the Pacers' leader in points scored and games played. 

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23. Jerry West: 25,192 points

Jerry West: 25,192 points
Malcolm Emmons - USA TODAY Sports

West was such a good scorer that they turned him into the NBA logo. He was the quintessential shooting guard of his era. He won the scoring title in 1970 and won Finals MVP in 1969 even though his team lost. This was the first and only time that a player from the losing team won Finals MVP. West has a 1-8 record in the finals. In 1972, he got over the mountain and won it all with Wilt Chamberlain and the Lakers. 

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24. Patrick Ewing: 24,815 points

Patrick Ewing: 24,815 points
The Sporting News-Contributor-Getty Images

A college star at Georgetown, Ewing was drafted first overall by the New York Knicks and was hailed as the player who would bring the once-great franchise back to prominence. He introduced himself to the NBA by winning Rookie of the Year and turned the Knicks into contenders. Ewing's Knicks lost to Michael Jordan's Bulls a lot in the playoffs, but their rivalry was classic '90s basketball. Ewing took the Knicks to the finals in 1994 and 1999. The Knicks lost both times and Ewing missed the 1999 finals because he tore his Achilles. Ewing didn't win a ring, but he's still an all-time great. 

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25. James Harden: 24,693 points (active)

James Harden: 24,693 points (active)
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Harden was the sixth man for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Harden, Durant, and Westbrook led the Thunder to the finals in 2012. The Thunder traded Harden to the Houston Rockets. He quickly turned into one of the best shooting guards in the league and took the Rockets on many deep playoff runs. He won three scoring titles and was named league MVP in 2018. Since leaving Houston behind, Harden has chased his first ring with the Nets and now the 76ers. 

David J. Hunt is a freelance writer based out of Philadelphia. He ran cross country at Penn State, became a volunteer firefighter during COVID-19, and is a self taught journalist. He's a diehard Philly sports fan. When he isn't watching sports, he enjoys working out, fishing, and traveling. You can find more of his writing at The Chestnut Hill Local and The Temple News. You can follow him on Twitter at @dave_hunt44.

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