LeBron James Breaks Kareem’s All-Time NBA Scoring Record
Last night, in the third quarter of an eventual loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder (a team name that didn’t even exist when James made his NBA debut), LA Lakers forward LeBron James broke the once-untouchable all-time NBA scoring record, formerly 38,387 points and held by the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Afterward, James had this to say about the moment:
Everything just stopped. It gave me an opportunity to embrace it and look around and seeing my family, the fans, my friends. It was pretty cool. I probably can count on my hands how many times I have cried in 20 years, either in happiness or in defeat. So that moment was one of them when I kind of teared up a little bit. It was ‘I can’t believe what’s going on’ tears.
James’ path to the all-time scoring record will look much different than his predecessor, and it’s quite obvious why: 3-pointers.
The impact of long-range shooting within the NBA has grown since the league embraced 3-pointers during the 1979-80 season. How has that affected James’ path to the top of the NBA’s scoring list? During Abdul-Jabbar’s final season in 1988-89, NBA teams averaged 6.6 3-point attempts per game. This season, James is averaging 6.7 3-point attempts on his own.
But let’s pause for a tribute to man James passed for the record: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Is Greater Than Any Basketball Record.
Guided by the footsteps of Jackie Robinson and Bill Russell, Abdul-Jabbar pushed forward, stretching the limits of Black athlete identity. He was, among other qualities, brash and bookish, confident and shy, awkward, aggressive, graceful - and sometimes an immense pain to deal with. He could come off as simultaneously square and the smoothest, coolest cat in the room.
In other words, he was a complete human being, not just the go-along-to-get-along, one-dimensional Black athlete much of America would have preferred him to be.
James has run with the branding concept that he is “More Than an Athlete.” Fifty-plus years ago, Abdul-Jabbar, basketball’s brightest young star, was already living that ideal.
From The Ringer, How LeBron James Broke the All-Time Scoring Record:
Just how long has James been playing in the NBA at a high level? Long enough to face nine father-son duos in games.
LeBron James opened his NBA career on Oct. 29, 2003, scoring 25 points in 42 minutes in a loss to the Sacramento Kings. On the Kings’ bench sat Jabari Smith, a 6-foot-11 center in his third year who wouldn’t remove his warmups that night.
Nineteen years, two months and 18 days later, James would be reminded of that matchup by another Smith, Jabari Smith Jr., a rookie with the Houston Rockets who is Jabari Smith’s son.
“Hey, you played against my dad in your first NBA game ever,” the rookie told LeBron.
“Why you do that to me,” a chuckling James said, to which Smith responded, “You feel old, don’t you?”
From The NY Times, How LeBron James Outscored Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and All the N.B.A. Greats:
James had a head start on catching Abdul-Jabbar because he was drafted out of high school, which wasn’t allowed in Abdul-Jabbar’s day. Then known as Lew Alcindor, Abdul-Jabbar first spent four years at U.C.L.A., where he was one of the most dominant college basketball players in the country.
James, at 38, is one of the oldest players in the league and in his 20th season. When Abdul-Jabbar was 38, he was in just his 17th professional season. By the time he hit his 20th year, he was no longer as dominant as he had been. James, with the good timing of being able to start this journey at 18 years old, is still proving every day just how much he has left, scoring 40 points on several nights this season and almost reaching 50 in a January game against Houston. He could be the first player to score 40,000 points.
On a personal note, I’ve never been that excited about LeBron James. I don’t hate him, but I didn’t really root for him or enjoy watching him play. Part of my aversion was no doubt due to many people trying, far too early, to place James on the GOAT throne, ahead of the player I grew up watching and rooting for, Michael Jordan. If I were in charge of drafting players for an all-time team, I’d still select Jordan first — his unique combination of drive, athleticism, and skill is still, IMO, the best in the game, ever. But with his versatility and longevity, LeBron James has more than earned the status of the NBA’s greatest player of all time.