LeBron James holds a number of NBA records thanks in large part to his legendary longevity. James is still an MVP candidate in his 18th season, and while that often leads to records involving scoring, assists or wins, the opposite side of that coin are the negative statistics that he accumulates through sheer volume.
On Friday, that came to fruition with a record that James would likely rather not hold. With his fourth turnover against the Memphis Grizzlies, James reached 4,525 for his career. That breaks Karl Malone’s long-standing NBA record of 4,524.
Now, in fairness to LeBron, this record hardly means he’s the most careless player in NBA history. Circumstance matters quite a bit. James has functionally played point guard for most of his career. Handling the ball that often inevitably leads to turnovers. It also leads to assists. Despite having nearly the same number of total turnovers, LeBron has almost twice as many assists in his career as Malone had. His assist-to-turnover ratio is significantly better. Malone’s turnovers, are harder to explain considering how rarely he controlled the ball relative to James.
Considering how often he controls the ball and how much longer he’s likely to play, James is probably going to set a record that is never again touched in NBA history. James averages 3.5 turnovers per game for this career. If he plays through the 2023-24 season, his son’s anticipated rookie year, it is not out of the question that he turns the ball over another 1,000 times.
And it won’t matter to his legacy one iota. James has played for three teams and all of them gladly paid the turnover tax for his greatness. James might not want this record, but in a sense, holding it is an honor. Only a legend could handle the ball enough to turn it over this often.