The Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James becomes the NBA's all-time points record holder after scoring 38 against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night; Abdul-Jabbar courtside to see his record surpassed; James needed 36 points to overhaul record
Wednesday 8 February 2023 13:41, UK
LeBron James has become the NBA's all-time points record holder, after surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's total of 38,387, twenty seasons on from his debut.
The points came on Tuesday night for the LA Lakers against the Oklahoma City Thunder in a 130-133 defeat where he put up 38.
James scored 20 points in the first half with a full showcase of the offensive talent that still shines blindingly after two decades in the NBA, and he tore through the record in a 16-point third quarter capped by a pretty jumper with 10.9 seconds left in the third quarter. He pushed his career total to 38,388 points and broke the record that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar held for nearly four decades.
The game was stopped for around 10 minutes as members of James' family, including his mother, his wife and their three children, took the floor for a ceremony recognising the moment.
The 38-year-old had been nursing a sore ankle in the run-up to the game, an injury that he manages day to day, which makes the feat all the more impressive. True to his word, James played through the pain and pulled off a historic feat at the Crypto.com Arena.
Surrounded by cameras, James addressed the crowd in the late third quarter as he surpassed the record, emotionally stating: "I thank you guys so much for allowing me to be a part of something I've always dreamed about. I would never in a million years dreamt this to be even better than what it is tonight."
James then greeted Kareem who had been watching from courtside. The pair had verbally sparred in the past on issues not related to sport, but they seemed to put their differences aside as Kareem presented LeBron with the basketball, as a sign of passing on the torch and thus extending his legacy:
NBA commissioner Adam Silver subsequently released a statement that read: "Congratulations to LeBron on breaking one of the most hallowed records in all of sport...it's a towering achievement that speaks to his sustained excellence over 20 seasons in the league."
Head coach Darvin Ham echoed the sentiment, saying: "The expectations were all the way out to Pluto, and he went ahead and created his own galaxy."
James was quick to return the kind words in his post-match press conference: "To the NBA, to Adam Silver, to the late, great David Stern, I thank you guys so much for allowing me to be a part of something I've always dreamed about."
He went on to say: "Everybody that's been a part of this run with me these last 20+ years, I just wanna say thank you so much because I wouldn't be me without y'all".
Asked whether he is the best NBA player of all time, James replied: "I'll let everybody else decide who that is or just talk about it, but it's great barbershop talk. Me personally, I'm going to take myself against anybody who's ever played this game.
"But everyone's gonna have their favourite, decide who their favourite is. And even some of the league's best players have already made their mind up on it.
"I know what I bring to the table every single night and what I can do out on this floor. I always feel like I'm the best to ever play this game, but there are so many great ones and I'm happy to be just a part of their journey."
Of course, some of those aforementioned players have already made their minds up, hailing him as the best ever.
They were not the only ones taking to Twitter to show their love and commemoration for James' feats. His former teams were there too.
Despite the game continuing into the fourth quarter, the reaction continued to pour in at the Crypto.com Arena, where dozens of celebrities gathered to witness history including Denzel Washington, Jay-Z, Bad Bunny, LL Cool J, Usher, Andy Garcia and countless others. Dozens of basketball greats also turned out, including Lakers heroes James Worthy and Bob McAdoo along with Dwyane Wade.
The loss itself might have marred an otherwise magical moment, but the Lakers know that they have limited time with LeBron, and whether they bring in some additional support ahead of this Thursday's trade deadline or not, he has given his all - and then some - to this franchise.
"I'm not a scorer. I don't want to be labelled as a scorer. I can put the ball in the hoop but I'm a playmaker. I'm a player. Put me on the court and I'll find ways to be successful." - LeBron James, May 2017
Almost six years after uttering those words before a Cleveland Cavaliers Eastern Conference Finals clash with the Boston Celtics, James - now clad in the purple and gold of the Los Angeles Lakers - has passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's career total of 38,387 points to become the all-time leading scorer in NBA history.
An all-time scoring record claimed by a pass-first player who does not even consider himself a scorer? On a superficial level, that is more than a little ironic. But consider this: it took Abdul-Jabbar 1,560 games over 20 years to set his total of 38,387 career points. It has taken James two decades to pass that mark.