LeBron James a worthy successor to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time NBA crown | NBA News
LeBron James is a worthy successor to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time NBA crown.
“I’m not a goalscorer. I don’t want to be labeled as a goalscorer. I can put the ball in the basket but I’m a playmaker. I’m a player. Put me on the pitch and I’ll find some ways to succeed.” – LeBron James, May 2017
Nearly six years after uttering those words ahead of a Cleveland Cavaliers Eastern Conference Finals clash with the Boston Celtics, James – now dressed in the purple and gold of the Los Angeles Lakers – surpassed Kareem’s total of 38,387 points Abdul-Jabbar to become the all-time leading scorer in NBA history.
An all-time record claimed by a passer who doesn’t even consider himself a goalscorer? On a superficial level, this is more than a little ironic. But consider this: It took Abdul-Jabbar 1,560 games over 20 years to establish his career total of 38,387 points. It took two decades for James to reach this milestone.
The all-time record is not just about putting the ball in the basket.
Becoming the NBA’s all-time champion takes longevity, durability, resilience, fitness, an almost compulsive drive to win, the ability to adapt to a changing sporting landscape and, most importantly, , love of the game.
On these terms, there is no more worthy successor to Abdul-Jabbar’s goalscoring crown than James.
But that won’t define it.
With the goalscoring record looming ahead of him, James, 38, produced a 28-point triple-double at Madison Square Garden on January 31 to lead the Lakers past the New York Knicks and leap past iconic point guards Mark Jackson and Steve Nash. fourth on the NBA’s all-time assists list.
In doing so, he is now the only player in the top five for career points and career assists.
The man who proclaimed himself “more than an athlete” is also much more than a goalscorer.
From one lake to another
The all-time crown passed from Abdul-Jabbar to James in the Lakers’ game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Crypto.com Arena on Feb. 8.
With 10.9 seconds remaining in the third quarter, James drained a 13-foot fade jump over Kenrich Williams to eventually pass Abdul-Jabbar, breaking a record that stood for 38 years, 10 months and two days.
The game was halted as Abdul-Jabbar and NBA commissioner Adam Silver took to the court to honor James, the former lifting a basketball skyward before handing it to James, marking the passage of the torch, before the couple shake hands and share a brief hug. as a raucous crowd erupted with “MVP” chants.
A visibly emotional James addressed the crowd before celebrating with his mother, wife, children and teammates.
“Being able to be in the presence of a legend like Kareem means so much to me and it’s very humbling,” he said before asking the crowd for a standing ovation for Abdul-Jabbar.
“To my beautiful wife, my daughter, my two boys, my friends, my mother, everyone who has been a part of this with me for the past 20 plus years, I just want to say ‘thank you so much’, because I wouldn’t be me without all of you. All of your help, all of your passion, all of your sacrifices have helped me get to this point.
“And to the NBA, to Adam Silver, to the late great [former NBA commissioner] David Stern, thank you so much guys for letting me be a part of something I’ve always dreamed of. I never, never in a million years would have dreamed it any better than it is tonight. Thanks guys.”
After such an outpouring of emotion, it was perhaps no surprise that James and the Lakers couldn’t stage a race to overhaul the Thunder and win the game. Carried by 30 points from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the Thunder ran out 133-130 winners. But the result was a minor detail on a night when James claimed a record many thought would never be broken.
Common qualities of two goalscoring champions
While LeBron and Kareem are from different eras and very different players, both men have dominated the league for long stretches.
Abdul-Jabbar was the league’s undisputed best player throughout the 1970s, winning six MVP awards between the 1969-70 and 1979-80 seasons. His signature Sky Hook, a shot embodying his grace and finesse, remains the most accurate and unstoppable weapon in the game.
James, playing in an era with more teams and a higher overall level of talent, won four MVPs in five seasons between 2008 and 2013. His status as the league’s standard bearer lasted much longer. “I should have more than four [MVPs] I believe,” said James USA today in 2019 and it’s hard to argue with him.
The two players’ shared longevity is best illustrated by their ability to perform at their best in the greatest moments of their careers.
Abdul-Jabbar, then 38, led the Lakers past the Boston Celtics in the 1985 NBA Finals, averaging 25.7 points, 9.0 rebounds and 5.2 assists to win his second Finals MVP, 14 years after winning his first.
In 2020, 35-year-old James won his fourth NBA title, propelling the Lakers past the Miami Heat in six games inside the Orlando “bubble”. His 29.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 8.5 assists earned him a fourth Finals MVP title, eight years after winning his first.
Staying at the top of a sport for two decades through an unwavering dedication to fitness and a desire to go beyond conventional thinking is another trait Abdul-Jabbar and James share.
In 2018, Maverick Carter revealed that his business partner James was spending $1.5 million a year on his body to prolong his career at the top level. According to Carter, James had embraced “cryotherapy, hyperbaric chambers, NormaTec leggings, etc.” to reinforce a strict workout routine and diet provided by a personal chef.
The 7-foot-2 Abdul-Jabbar, who played college and professional basketball in a much more physical and less technological era, found cutting-edge ways to take care of his body.
As a teenager in high school, Abdul-Jabbar embraced yoga and practiced it throughout his professional career, later acknowledging that it helped him stay injury-free, especially in his later years. seasons.
Abdul-Jabbar also turned to martial arts in the late 1960s, training with Bruce Lee (and appearing alongside Lee in the movie “Game of Death”). The flexibility, fluidity and balance he discovered in both activities was reflected in the way he played on the court.
The last landmark
Abdul-Jabbar played his last NBA season in 1988-89. Lasting to the end, he played 74 of 82 regular games on a season-long farewell tour before ending his stellar career at 42.
It’s likely we’ll see James, currently in the middle of a regular season in which he’s averaging 30 points per game, play well into his 40s as well.
With more championships, individual awards and statistical milestones to his name than any other NBA player in history, James found the motivation to stay at the top level from a source closer to home.
James has regularly spoken of his desire to remain an NBA player until his son, LeBron James Jr, can play alongside him. The first “Bronny”, currently a high school student, could play in the NBA is the 2024-25 season.
What better incentive for James to keep playing than finally throwing an assist to his son Bronny in an NBA game? The NBA’s all-time leading scorer, but a playmaker until the end.