Score King: James passes Abdul-Jabbar to score NBA points
LeBron James got the first official stat of his NBA career on a rebound. His next entry on the stat sheet was an assist.
Even then, points were not the priority. They never were.
Somehow, he became the most prolific scorer in NBA history anyway. It finally happened on Tuesday night, the kid from Akron, Ohio, connected on a jumping back to push his career total to 38,388 points and break the record that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar held for nearly 39 years.
James reached out after his 36th point of the night for the Los Angeles Lakers, threw both hands in the air, then smiled. Abdul-Jabbar rose from his seat and applauded. The game was stopped when members of James’ family, including his mother, wife and their three children, took the stage for a ceremony acknowledging the moment.
“It never got my juices flowing,” James told The Associated Press, when asked what the goalscoring record meant to him. “I’m here now because I never thought about it. The only thing I ever thought about was winning championships, maybe a couple MVPs, maybe Defensive Player of the Year. But scoring championships and records, I tell you, that was never on my mind.
Abdul-Jabbar – a longtime Laker and one of many celebrities and sports stars who made sure to be there to see history – became the league’s all-time leading scorer on April 5, 1984. and retired in 1989 with 38,387 points. It was a record that some thought would stand forever, with very few even coming close. Karl Malone retired 1,459 points behind Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant at 4,744 points and Michael Jordan at 6,095 points.
James passed them all and then also caught Abdul-Jabbar. The 38-year-old – who finished with 38 points in the Lakers’ 133-130 loss – did so in his 20th season. Abdul-Jabbar also played 20 NBA seasons.
“You have to give him credit for how he planned to last and dominate,” Abdul-Jabbar told TNT.
And now King James — a nickname he’s had since high school, when he was just an Akron kid — is the NBA’s scoring king, with 38,390-plus points.
“A record that has stood for nearly 40 years that many people thought would never be broken,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said.
Abdul-Jabbar held the ball aloft, then handed it to James, the torch-passing ceremony. They posed for pictures with Silver, then with each other. James wiped the tears from his eyes, then addressed the crowd.
“I just want to say thank you to the Laker faithful. You are one of a kind,” James said. “Being able to be in the presence of a legend as great as Kareem is very humbling. Please give the captain a standing ovation, please.
James then thanked his family and those who supported him, including Silver and the late NBA Commissioner David Stern.
“Thank you guys so much for letting me be a part of something I’ve always dreamed of,” James said.
At least 16 different players have, technically, been the all-time top scorer in league history – most of those who arrived in the first month of the league’s existence in 1946, when everyone world was starting from zero and nine different players were at the top of the goalscoring list. within the first 16 days.
But only six have officially finished a season as all-time leader: Joe Fulks, George Mikan, Dolph Schayes, Bob Pettit, Wilt Chamberlain and Abdul-Jabbar.
James will be the seventh name on this list and he will probably stay there for a long time. No active player is within 10,000 points of James, who is under contract for two years and is on track to become the league’s leading 40,000-point scorer next season.
“Nobody will ever touch it,” said Cleveland forward Kevin Love, a teammate of James in the 2016 title team. “The goalscoring record will never be eclipsed. I do not care. He will never, ever be touched. It will never happen again.”
James could have had the goalscoring record a long time ago, if he wanted to. But he always preferred to pass. James is behind only John Stockton, Jason Kidd and Chris Paul on the all-time assists list. None of them were, or are, close to striker James. Of that group, Paul comes closest, ranking 38th in NBA history.
And Paul is 17,000 points behind the new king of scorers.
“I hadn’t thought of it that way, but it’s very true,” Silver told AP ahead of the record night. “I think that even adds up – right? — to that accomplishment for a guy who became a scorer because he determined that was what was needed to win. And you’re right, he probably doesn’t get enough credit for his selfless play because there’s so much focus and attention on him. … I think it’s all the more special that he prefers to be known for his assists than for his baskets.
James is the only member of the NBA’s triple quintuple club: at least 10,000 points, 10,000 rebounds and 10,000 assists. There are 44 players to hit five figures in two of those categories.
He will almost certainly be the NBA’s all-time leader in earnings whenever he retires; adding the $97 million he will earn over the next two seasons, he will exceed $500 million in on-court wages alone. He is a 19-time All-Star selection, tying an Abdul-Jabbar record. If he plays the Feb. 19 game in Salt Lake City, he’ll set an appearance record.
Others, perhaps, have been as good. It’s always a debate. But no one has ever been so good, so long. James – a two-time champion at Miami, champion at Cleveland in 2016 and champion with the Lakers in 2020 – is averaging 30 points per game in his 20th season; only three other players have averaged more than 10 points per game this far in their careers, none of those averaging more than Bryant’s 17.6 in his 20th and final season.
“I’ve never done the ‘OK, if I play that long and average that thing’ thing,” James said. “I’ve never done that with anything in my career. I’ve always said, ‘If it happens, it happens.’ »
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