LeBron James finally eclipsed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the most prolific scorer in NBA history on Tuesday, breaking a 39-year record that many throughout basketball believed would never be beaten.
The Los Angeles Lakers star, playing in his 20th season in the NBA, passed Abdul-Jabbar’s longstanding total of 38,387 points after nailing a 21-foot shot late in the third quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
James flung his arms aloft in relief as the Crypto.com Arena erupted in wild celebration at his new record of 38,388 points.
Abdul-Jabbar, sitting courtside, was among the first to congratulate James as play was interrupted to salute an iconic moment in NBA history.
“To be able to be in the presence of a legend and great as Kareem it means so much to me,” James told the crowd before thanking family, friends and fans.“Everybody that’s ever been part of this run with me these last 20 years, I just want to say I thank you so much because I wouldn’t be me without all your help, all your passion and all your sacrifices to help me get to this point.” James signed off his on-court address with an F-bomb, seemingly lost for words after one of the signature moments of his glittering career.
James, who eventually finished the game with 38 points on the night for a career haul of 38,390, said afterwards he expected to continue playing for at least two more seasons.
“I know I can play a couple more years — it’s all about my mind,” James said. “If my mind is still into it, if I’m still motivated to go out and try to compete for championships, I feel like I can still do that.”
After a dazzling season that has seen him average 30 points per game in a struggling Lakers outfit, James went into Tuesday’s clash with Oklahoma City needing 36 points to surpass Abdul-Jabbar.
The 38-year-old took his time before surging towards his magic number, missing his first two attempts before finally nailing a three-pointer midway through the first quarter to get off the mark.
The four-time NBA champion would go on to score eight points in the opening quarter, leaving him 28 short as the second quarter got under way.
James upped the pace in the second quarter with 12 quick points before being subbed off with 5:34 left in the half, 16 points away from the record by half-time.
A pair of back-to-back three-pointers midway through the third quarter left him just eight points away from the record, with 28 on the night, before a driving layup put him within six.
Two more layups left him two points away before he duly converted his long-range effort to seal the record.
James had been at pains to dampen anticipation surrounding his record chase this season, insisting that his priority remained helping the Lakers become a competitive outfit once more.
However, in the build up to Tuesday he was more expansive when discussing the record, saying beating Abdul-Jabbar’s mark was comparable to breaking baseball’s all-time home run record.
“I think it’s one of the greatest records in sports in general,” James said. “I think it’s up there with the home run record in baseball. It’s one of those records that you just don’t ever see or think that would be broken.” Many in the NBA agreed, believing that Abdul-Jabbar’s record was untouchable. “I think most of us back then thought that record would never be broken,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said of Abdul-Jabbar’s record last weekend.
“So to see LeBron do it over 20 years is pretty remarkable and a testament to not only his ability but his durability.
“He’s just a machine. He’s healthy and a physical force night after night.” Tyronn Lue, James’s former coach at the Cleveland Cavaliers, believes the scoring record is the crowning achievement of his glittering career.
“This has to be No. 1, seeing how long Kareem has held this record (since 1984). I know LeBron has his championships and MVPs. But to be the all-time leading scorer in NBA history, considering all the great players that have come through this game? That’s a big-time accomplishment,” Lue told NBA.com.
James, meanwhile, declined to be drawn on whether his scoring record meant he should now be considered the greatest basketball player in history.
“I’ll let everybody else decide who that is,” he told Lakers great Shaquille O’Neal on TNT television. “But it’s great barber shop talk.”
SLIDING DOORS MOMENT THAT ALMOST MADE MILLS A WARRIOR
It’s the sliding doors moment when Patty Mills could have landed at the Golden State Warriors alongside Steph Curry and co and won a championship last season.
The year was 2021 and Mills was deep in free agency discussions while attempting to win a historic maiden medal for the Boomers at the Tokyo Olympics.
Multiple teams were in the mix for the guard’s signature, including the Warriors, who made phone calls to connected parties expressing interest in the Australian fan favourite.
Golden State wanted to offer Mills a mid-level contract, but he opted to join the Brooklyn Nets on a two-year deal worth $12 million.
The Nets were a hugely appealing prospect at the time given the franchise had signed All-Star trio Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden.
Sadly, Mills, or anyone for that matter, couldn’t have envisaged the drama that would unfold in Brooklyn.
The Nets’ slide started just six months after the Australian captain signed with the franchise.
Brooklyn’s dream team was blown up when Harden was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Nets received Aussie Ben Simmons from the 76ers, but Simmons couldn’t play due to a back injury and lingering mental health concerns.
Brooklyn limped into the playoffs in seventh position before bowing out in the first-round after being swept by the Boston Celtics.
Trouble continued to follow the Nets during the off-season when Durant requested a trade.
The trade didn’t come to fruition, but rumblings of dissatisfaction in Brooklyn continued to bubble away.
This week those fears came to fruition when Irving requested a trade from the Nets.
Days later, the Melbourne-born guard had linked with the Dallas Mavericks, where he hopes to form a potent back-court combination with Mavs superstar Luka Doncic.
It’s a sad situation in Brooklyn that has been compounded further for Mills given he is also fighting for on-court minutes while his name keeps coming up in potential trade scenarios.
The Nets will receive Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith and three future draft picks for Irving.
Brooklyn could still trade Dinwiddie, but for now there is no movement.
From Mills’ perspective, the Irving trade could be positive in the short-term.
He is back in Brooklyn’s rotation after appearing to be well down the pecking order earlier in the season.
Mills has also found form in recent games, highlighted by a 21-point game in a big win over the Los Angeles Lakers with an undermanned squad.
Despite this strong recent form, the Boomers guard remains in a precarious position at the Nets moving forward, despite having next season remaining on his contract.
This was on show on Tuesday in Brooklyn’s 124-116 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Mills came off the bench, as the Nets preferred to start with in-form guard Cam Thomas, who went on to drop a game-high 47 points.
Dinwiddie didn’t suit up for Brooklyn in the loss, but he’ll automatically come into the line-up in the coming games.
It will leave Mills, who had no points, rebounds or assists in his 11 minutes on the floor against the Clippers, back down the Nets’ depth chart.
Fellow Australian Ben Simmons appears locked in at Brooklyn for the foreseeable future.
Simmons has two seasons left on his Nets deal, but the franchise would struggle to move him on even if they wanted to.
It has emerged that the Melbourne-born guard has no trade value around the NBA right now.
This is a remarkable change in circumstances considering it was only 2021 when Simmons became an NBA All-Star for the third time.
Now the prodigious yet polarising Aussie is considered damaged goods due to his refusal to improve his jump shot.
Irving’s trade to Dallas opens the door for Simmons to step up, especially with superstar Kevin Durant still sidelined with a knee injury.
Durant is on track to return in the coming weeks.
Until then, it’s not an easy challenge for Simmons, especially given his reluctance to drive to the rim, but the opportunity remains for him to silence the doubters.
Originally published as LeBron James breaks NBA scoring record, basketball news
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