LeBron James becomes NBA’s all-time scoring king

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James parlayed his offensive versatility over 20 seasons into the NBA all-time scoring record, passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on Tuesday for most points in league history.

James eclipsed Abdul-Jabbar’s mark of 38,387 career regular-season points on a fallaway shot with 10.2 seconds remaining in the third quarter of the Lakers’ Tuesday game against the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder.

He stepped back from the defense of Kenrich Williams near the foul line and sank the record-breaking jumper.

Abdul-Jabbar, who was sitting courtside, stood and applauded as James celebrated. The former Lakers star and NBA commissioner Adam Silver both shook James’ hand and gave him brief hugs at center court.

James then got on a microphone and said, “Everybody that has ever been a part of this run with me the last 20-plus years, I want to say thank you so much because I wouldn’t be me without all y’all. All y’all helped. All y’all’s passion and sacrifices helped me to get to this point.

“And to the NBA, to Adam Silver, to the late great David Stern, thank you very much for allowing me to be a part of something I always dreamed about. I would never in a million years dreamt this to be even better than what it is tonight. So (expletive) man, thank you, guys.”

James ended the night with 38 points, leaving his career total at 38,390 points, but the Lakers lost 133-130.

Silver subsequently released a statement that read, “Congratulations to LeBron on breaking one of the most hallowed records in all of sports by becoming the NBA’s all-time scoring leader. It’s a towering achievement that speaks to his sustained excellence over 20 seasons in the league. And quite amazingly, LeBron continues to play at an elite level and his basketball history is still being written.”

After the game, James said, “I don’t know if it’s hit me. It hit me a little when my family got out on the floor after it happened and I saw all my friends and family, but it hasn’t quite sunk in yet. …

“To be able to play at this level, 20 years in and the minutes I played, the games I played, through the regular season and the postseason, to still be at the apex of my game is a really surreal feeling.

“Hopefully I can keep doing it; but, at the end of the day, it’s just been a pleasure to be in this league for 20 years. And however long I can go and however long that can be, I’ve had a hell of a run.”

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 favorite, decide who their favorite is.

“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.”

The star-studded crowd included tennis legend John McEnroe, music stars Jay-Z, LL Cool J and Bad Bunny, actor Denzel Washington and former Lakers players Bob McAdoo and James Worthy, among others.

With the skills of a point guard, the shooting prowess of a wing and the strength of a power forward, James entered Tuesday’s game averaging 30 points per game this season and needing 36 on the night to break the record.

James, 38, has averaged 27.2 points per game in his career while playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers (2003-10, 2014-18), Miami Heat (2010-14) and the Lakers (2018-present).

Not counted in his regular-season record total are James’ 7,631 playoff points, also the most by a player in NBA history. He has played in 266 career postseason games while winning four NBA championships.

James missed his first two shots against the Thunder before scoring his first basket on a 3-pointer from the left wing with 7:03 remaining in the first quarter. He had eight points on 3-of-6 shooting in the opening period and 20 points by halftime by going 6 of 10 from the floor, although Los Angeles trailed 76-66 at the break.

In an example of just how consistent of a scorer James has been, he also extended his record streak of double-digit games to 1,140.

James’ record performance wasn’t enough for the Lakers, though, as the Thunder emerged with the win.

Lakers coach Darvin Ham said, “The guys, they wanted to see Bron do what he did tonight. A lot of times I think the focus was more about trying to get Bron to the record as opposed to just playing natural basketball. We were able to make some good plays, and he did what he did — he eclipsed the record. But we just had too many mistakes.”

–Field Level Media

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