LeBron James has confirmed his status as the one of the most dominant NBA players in history after passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time scoring record.
The 38-year-old passed Abdul-Jabbar’s mark of 38,387 points with a step-back fadeaway jumper from the foul line over the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kenrich Williams with 10.9 seconds remaining in the third quarter on Tuesday night.
But while Abdul-Jabbar took 1,560 games to record his total, James set his record in just over 1,400 appearances. Michael Jordan has the most points per game in NBA history with 30.1. James is fifth on that list with 27.1, just behind another active player, Kevin Durant (27.3).
The game was paused after James’ record-breaking shot for an on-court ceremony with Abdul-Jabbar and NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
“I just want to say, thank you to the Laker faithful. You guys are one of a kind,” James said. “To be able to be in the presence of such a legend as great as Kareem, it’s very humbling. Please give a standing ovation to the Captain, please.”
James went on to thank his family and those who have supported him.
“I thank you guys so much for allowing me to be a part of something I’ve always dreamed about,” said James, who finished the night with 38 points on 13-of-20 shooting along with seven rebounds, three assists and three steals in a 133-130 Lakers loss.
Abdul-Jabbar, who had held the record since April 1984, has said he welcomes James’ progress. “I want [other players] to break my records because doing so is one more benchmark of human progress,” he wrote for the Guardian in 2019. “… Each time an athlete demonstrates that a person is capable of more than we thought, they have inspired all of humanity to realize that they are capable of reaching further than they thought possible.”
James’ march to the scoring record seemed almost seemed preordained. He was given the media attention usually devoted to professional athletes while still in high school and scored his first NBA points, for his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers, when he was 18 (unlike James, Abdul-Jabbar played college basketball and did not score his first points in the league until he was 22). His accumulation of scoring records has also been helped by the fact that he has avoided serious injuries, and James has only missed significant playing time since joining the Los Angeles in 2018.
But James is far from a mere scoring machine – he has the fourth-most assists in NBA history, and is known for his leadership skills on the court. He is also a four-time NBA MVP and has won at least one title with each of his three teams, the Cavaliers, Lakers and Miami Heat.
“It’s not just his body. It’s not just his process. It’s not just his intention. It’s his brain,” his former Cavaliers teammate Kevin Love told the Associated Press this month.
As for the future, James has said he wants to play alongside his son, Bronny, who won’t be eligible to join the NBA until 2024 at the earliest. By then James would be well north of 40,000 career points if his scoring rate continues.
Official NBA records are based on performance in the regular season. However, James also holds the scoring record for combined points in regular-season and playoff games. He broke Abdul-Jabbar’s record of 44,149 points in last season’s playoffs.