Basketball Reference came up with a list for Henry Abbott over at TrueHoop yesterday identifying which individuals played the most real minutes (regular season and playoffs combined) in NBA history. The top-50 list came out with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on top for logging a grand total of 66,297 minutes over the course of his career. Karl Malone was second on the list with 62,759, and Wilt Chamberlain was a distant third playing a total of 55,418 minutes during his career.
The currently active players who made the top-50 included Jason Kidd (9th with 52,386), Kobe (16th with 48,310), Kevin Garnett (18th with 47,998), Ray Allen (24th with 45,156), Tim Duncan (26th with 44,685), Dirk (37th with 41,363) and Paul Pierce (50th with 40,085). To add a bit more perspective, LeBron James has played 29,182 combined minutes over the course of his career, Dwayne Wade has played 21,329, and Kevin Durant has totaled 12,128 minutes.
All that said, who has the best chance of catching Kareem?
To help answer that question, below is the breakdown of how many more total minutes each of the 10 active players referenced above would have to play in order to surpass the 66,297 minute mark set by Jabbar. I also assumed that each player would average approximately 30 minutes per game, and added a rough number of additional games each player would need in order to have a chance to make up the current differential between themselves and Kareem. That breakdown is as follows:
Jason Kidd – 13,911 total minutes or approximately 464 more games to catch Kareem
Kobe Bryant – 17,987 total minutes or approximately 600 more games
Kevin Garnett – 18,309 total minutes or approximately 611 more games
Ray Allen – 21,141 total minutes or approximately 705 more games
Tim Duncan – 21,613 total minutes or approximately 721 more games
Dirk Nowitzki – 24,934 total minutes or approximately 832 more games
Paul Pierce – 26,212 total minutes or approximately 874 more games
LeBron James – 37,115 total minutes or approximately1,238 more games
Dwayne Wade – 44,968 total minutes or approximately 1,499 more games
Kevin Durant – 54,169 total minutes or approximately 1,806 more games
For as long as it’s seemed Dwayne Wade has been around the league, and in the post-season, Kareem Abdul–Jabaar played almost three times as many minutes for his career than Wade has so far. Think about that for a second and then ask yourself why doesn’t that guy have his own statue yet?
Anyway, there’s a lot to consider when anticipating who has the best chance of surpassing the minutes played by the artist formerly known as Lew Alcindor – assuming anyone really does have a chance. Things like age, health, position to play postseason basketball annually, amongst other things all factor into the equation. Before I broke down the numbers, I thought my answer would be LeBron coming from outside the current top-50. He’s still relatively young despite where he wears his headband, he stays healthy most of the time, he’s played in some postseasons already, will play in them annually moving forward. He was my bet initially, and I still think he might have the best chance, but to be honest I was a little surprised at how far behind Kareem he really is. 1,238 games behind is a ton of games, and by a ton I mean 15 more 82-game seasons. So I don’t know, maybe he’s not my pick anymore.
Kobe playing around 7 more seasons though? Could J-Kidd have about 6 more seasons in him? I don’t know. Let us know what you think. I’m getting tired thinking about it.