Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James passed Steve Nash for fourth place on the NBA’s all-time assist leaderboard following his 11-assist performance against the New York Knicks on Tuesday.
As reported by ESPN’s Brian Windhorst in 2016, James’ ability to efficiently distribute the ball is particularly noteworthy, especially at his position.
“LeBron breaks all the passing rules,” one scout said. “You’re not supposed to leave your feet and pass. … You’re not supposed to pass through traffic. He throws backhanded fastballs that buzz the ears of two defenders. He always knows where everyone is going to be.”
James is still averaging seven assists per game this season.
James is in the presence of some elite company and is the only non-guard in the top 10. Here’s where he sits among the NBA greats:
Games played: 1,504
If there was a prototype for point guards, its style of play would be very similar to that of Stockton. The Utah Jazz great had 19 consecutive playoff appearances during his career.
Per NBA.com, Stockton’s other assists records include: most in a season (1,164); highest average for a season (14.5); most seasons leading the league (nine); and most consecutive seasons leading the league (nine).
The two-time Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer also holds the No.1 spot on the NBA’s all-time steals list.
Games played: 1,391
Selected second overall in the 1994 draft by the Dallas Mavericks, Kidd had a knack for dishing the ball. He was also a member of the Phoenix Suns, then-New Jersey Nets and New York Knicks
His 4,620 assists remain a franchise record for the Nets as he averaged more than nine assists per game with the team.
He won his only NBA championship alongside Dirk Nowitzki and Co. in 2011 and returned to Dallas as its head coach in 2021.
Assists: 11,246 and counting
Games played: 1,186 and counting
Nicknamed the “Point God,” Paul moved into the third place in November 2021.
He spent most of his career with the New Orleans Hornets (now New Orleans Pelicans) and LA Clippers, where he averaged 9.9 and 9.8 assists per game in the regular season, respectively. He is the all-time assists leader for both franchises.
The beginning of the 2021-22 NBA season was quite eventful for Paul. Along with reaching the milestone above, he became the first NBA player to tally 20,000 points with 10,000 assists and was named to the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team.
Assists: 10,339 and counting
Games played: 1,406 and counting
Still going strong in Year 20, James is firmly planted in the 10K-assist club — and within reach of passing the three players above him.
A self-proclaimed “pass-first guy,” his résumé speaks volumes as a four-time MVP, Finals MVP and NBA champion.
A significant chunk of his assists (6,228) came when he played for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Games played: 1,217
Under head coach Mike D’Antoni, Nash was a part of an early 2000s Phoenix Suns team that was known for its offensive prowess. The “Seven Seconds or Less” Suns took the league by storm. And, for a few years, it worked, as Nash was named the league’s MVP in two consecutive seasons and finished as the runner-up to Nowitzki in a third.
Games played: 1,296
Jackson played for seven teams across his 17 seasons in the NBA. He spent most of his career with the Knicks. Jackson averaged over 10 assists in his inaugural season and was named the 1988 Rookie of the Year.
He split time between the Indiana Pacers and Denver Nuggets in the 1996-97 season and averaged 11.4 assists per game.
Games played: 906
As one of two players to record over 10,000 assists in less than 1,000 games, Johnson is regarded as the greatest point guard in NBA history.
Johnson averaged a double-double every season from 1982 to 1991 and led the NBA in assists four times. The Lakers’ legend remains the all-time leader in assists and triple-doubles for the franchise.
Games played: 1,040
Robertson defined dominance and versatility at the guard position. In his first year, he averaged 30.5 points, 10.1 rebounds and an NBA-high 9.7 assists, earning rookie of the year honors.
In his second year, he became the first player to average a triple-double for an entire season, a distinction he held until Russell Westbrook joined him after the 2016-17 season. Robertson, a member of the 35th, 50th and 75th anniversary teams, has his jersey numbers retired by the Sacramento Kings (then-Cincinnati Royals) and Milwaukee Bucks.
Games played: 979
Thomas and Johnson are the only players in the top 10 who played less than 1,000 games.
His “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons were known for their gritty defense, and Thomas brought that same approach to the offense. He spent his entire career with Detroit and sits atop the franchise’s all-time assists list, with the next closest entry being 4,449 less than his career total.
Games played: 1,335
Widely known for being a lockdown defender, Payton is the only point guard to win Defensive Player of the Year. However, his offensive contributions are also noteworthy.
Payton recorded most of his assists (7,386) as a member of the Seattle SuperSonics (now Oklahoma City Thunder). He remains the franchise’s all-time assists leader, with Westbrook sitting in second place with 6,897.