James started the game needing 36 points to break the record considered unbreakable by some pundits. The record only includes scoring during regular season games. Playoff games are in their own category.
Abdul-Jabbar, who was at the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles on Tuesday, surpassed NBA legend Wilt Chamberlain as the leading scorer on April 5, 1984 – more than eight months before James was born.
Abdul-Jabbar scored 38,387 points in a two-decade NBA career before retiring in 1989.
James, 38, widely regarded as a pass-first player, moved to No. 4 in All-time NBA assists late last month as he eclipsed Steve Nash with his 10,336th assist.
A native of Akron, Ohio, who was selected out of high school as the NBA’s No. 1 pick in 2003 by the Cleveland Cavaliers, James has set the scoring record during his two-decade career by averaging about 27 points per game .
James, a four-time MVP who has won four NBA titles with three teams (in 2012 and 2013 with the Miami Heat, in 2016 with the Cleveland Cavaliers and in 2020 with the Lakers), said Thursday after a narrow win against the Indiana Pacers that the scoring record is one he covets.
“I think it’s one of the best records in the sport overall,” he said. “It’s like the home run record in baseball. It’s one of those records that you never see or think will be broken. You see guys like Hank Aaron, who had it for so long. You see guys like Sammy [Sosa] and Mark McGwire, and you start climbing on it, and it’s like, ‘Oh, this could really happen.’ That’s nice as an athlete. It was fun to watch those guys chase him.
Even as a grizzled veteran, James hasn’t slowed down this season. As the Lakers struggle to secure a place in the playoffs, James has averaged about 30 points per game, competing among the league’s top scorers, 20-year-old superstars such as Joel Embiid, Luka Dončić and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
James has played several 40-point games this season. His 46 points against the Los Angeles Clippers on January 24 set another NBA record, making him the only player in history to score 40 points or more against any NBA franchise.
While James’ court accolades have earned him the nickname “King James,” he has been praised and criticized for his out-of-court social commentary on issues such as police brutality, voter suppression, and the detention of WNBA star Brittney Griner in Russia.
James responded to football star in 2021 Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s criticism of his political activism.
“I preach about my people and I preach about equality, social injustice, racism, systematic voter suppression, things that are happening in our community,” James said. “I know what’s still going on because I have a group of over 300 kids at my school going through the same thing, and they need a voice, and I’m their voice. I will use my platform to continue to shed light on everything that is going on in this country and around the world. I would never just stick to sports because I understand how powerful this platform and my voice are.”
The I Promise School in Akron, for at-risk students, is supported by the LeBron James Family Foundation.
On his way to pass the record, James scored 8 points in the first quarter and 12 in the second, before making history at the end of the third.
James had a total of 38 points on the night. The Lakers lost to the Thunder 130-133, despite a comeback effort from Los Angeles.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver congratulated James on “breaking one of the most sacred records in all of sports,” saying it was a “skyrocketing achievement.”
James said in an interview broadcast on the TNT post-game show that when he read about the game’s history, he never thought the record would be touched.
“It’s just a real honor to be part of this league, to be part of some of the greats who have ever played this game, and for me to be up there with them,” said James.
Abdul-Jabbar praised James, saying the younger man “intended to dominate” in the NBA.
“He led teams to three world championships. They didn’t get there because of anyone else and LeBron went with them — LeBron led them,” Abdul-Jabbar said on the same post-game show.
“He has that indefinable essence that they call leadership,” Abdul-Jabbar said.
Even though James is now the league’s all-time leading scorer, the debate over who is the NBA’s GOAT, or all-time greatest, will continue among fans.
However, James has said he wants to add to his legacy and hopes to play in the NBA with his sons, Bronny, a senior, and Bryce, a sophomore.
James once again graced Sports Illustrated last year, but this time he was joined by his sons on a cover that read, “The Chosen Sons.”