At 24, the best NBA years are just beginning. But some players are already incredible scorers – including today’s birthday boy Luka Doncic.
The Slovenian has already provided a number of highlights in his short NBA career and is currently even on course to become the top scorer in the league for the first time. But his rise on this list ended today…
We present the top 10 players with the most NBA points before their 24th birthday. For once, that list isn’t topped by Wilt Chamberlain, who had just one NBA season (albeit averaging 37.6 points per game) prior to his 24th.
The player with the highest average (in at least 100 NBA games) is not represented here either – because Bob McAdoo (27.7 PPG) played too few games for that. Logically, he still deserves a shoutout.
And so off to the top 10!
10th place: DWIGHT HOWARD
Interestingly, Howard is the most-capped player before his 24th birthday, missing just three games in his first six years in the NBA. Superman was Mr. Reliable before his back kept pinching.
Of course, the center also benefited from the rule at the time that you could go directly from high school to the NBA. Along with Kwame Brown and LeBron James, D12 is the only high schooler to be selected with the first pick.
9th place: KARL ANTHONY TOWNS
Many are now critical of Towns’ development, after all, KAT came with great advance praise and quickly developed into an elite scorer. The Big Man has never been a real franchise player, and now at 27, doubts are growing as to whether he can ever become one. Logically, however, Towns is excellent as an attacking player.
8th place: SHAQUILLE O’NEAL
Even in his rookie season, only eight players scored better than the Diesel, who instantly made disastrous Magic a playoff contender and even earned MVP votes. At the age of 23, Shaq averaged 29 points, at that time only half of all teams cracked 100 points per game.
Young O’Neal was a force of nature, leading his team to the Finals at a young age alongside Penny Hardaway. Orlando was the only team to beat Jordan’s Bulls in a playoff series in the ’90s.
7th place: DEVIN BOOKER
Cut: 22.5 PPG
Not that long ago, Booker was considered more of a “good stats, bad team” player. At least since the Bubble, Book has gotten rid of this label, which has always been a bit exaggerated. 70 points in a single game is not something you just shake off the wrist, especially not at the age of 20.
6th place: KOBE BRYANT
Cut: 19.8 PPG
The conditions were a bit different for Kobe, his raw numbers would probably be significantly better if he hadn’t played alongside Shaq for the first few years. The 2000 finals proved that he could have been number one in a good team early on.
Back then, at the tender age of 21, Bryant almost single-handedly decided a Finals game when Shaq fouled out in Game 4 at the Pacers early in overtime…well, Kobe’s three OVER sidekick titles early in his career certainly have the bottom line no harm.
5th place: TRACY MCGRADY
T-Mac, on the other hand, didn’t have that luxury and had already completed six full seasons (minus the 1998-99 lockout) before his 24th birthday. And after the Superteam plans in Orlando fell through (Duncan stayed with the Spurs, Grant Hill was seriously injured), McGrady could/had to score happily. In 2002/03 it was a whopping 32.1 points per game, the last time Michael Jordan (32.6 PPG in 92/93) had recorded such a good average.
4th place: LUKA DONCIC
With the exception of Shaq, no player on this list played fewer games before the age of 24, with more than 50 games separating Luka from any other player in the top five. That speaks volumes about how dominant the Slovenian is as a scorer at a young age, he has the highest point average in the top 10, even though he “only” played 21 per game as a rookie…
Doncic is currently on course to win his first scoring crown in the NBA. If he keeps it up, it won’t be the last… and it’s no coincidence that he’s the one name that gets mentioned from time to time when it comes to who will one day lift LeBron from No. Time Scoring list could displace. We don’t believe in it, but Luka should still be able to climb high.
3rd place: CARMELO ANTHONY
Melo came to the NBA on the tailwind of a stellar college season and was a 20-point scorer from day one. He almost immediately became the figurehead of the Nuggets and – unlike LeBron, for example – led them to the playoffs even as a rookie. At the time there was (for some) a small debate as to which of the two super forwards one would rather have in the team.
Although Anthony never reached the heights of James, he still earned ten All-Star nominations, two of them before his 24th birthday. In 2006/2007, at the age of 22, he averaged 28.9 points, although the three was not a real weapon in his early NBA years. Physically, he was virtually unstoppable.
2nd place: KEVIN DURANT
KD also spent a year at college, otherwise first place might have been possible. The “Slim Reaper” once started in Seattle as a shooting guard, which is why he wasn’t that efficient in year one (but already marked 20 points on average). After that it really started, Durant never dropped less than 25 PPG (!) from his second season.
And there is another marker that no one will be able to surpass any time soon: before his 24th birthday, Durant was the top scorer in the league three times. Some people just know where the basket is hanging.
1st place: LEBRON JAMES
Of course, this also applies to the all-time leading scorer in NBA history, who “wasted” no time in college and instead broke through almost every scoring wall faster than any player before or after him.
James was immediately a franchise player in Cleveland, almost never missed a game and always put on at least 27 PPG from his sophomore season. In the season with his best point average (31.4), he was 21. The narrative that he was “not a scorer” was omnipresent throughout his career, but also quite nonsense during his career.
When you consider that even KD didn’t even score 9/10 of the points James had before he was 24 (it was close to 87 percent), it’s reasonable to conclude that LeBron will maintain this top spot for quite some time.