LeBron James has eclipsed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the most prolific scorer in NBA history, breaking a 39-year record that many believed would never be beaten.
The Los Angeles Lakers star, playing in his 20th season in the NBA, passed Abdul-Jabbar’s total of 38,387 points after nailing a 21-foot shot late in the third quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday.
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.
During his speech, James thanked his family, friends and fans for allowing him to be in the presence of such a legend and icon as Kareem.
I want to thank everyone who has ever been a part of this run with me over the last 20 years. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without all your help, all your passion, and all your sacrifices.”
A bit lost for words after one of the proudest moments of his career, James ended his on-court speech with an F-bomb.
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.”
Having averaged 30 points per game on a struggling Lakers team, James needs 36 points to surpass Abdul-Jabbar in Tuesday’s clash with Oklahoma City.
Midway through the first quarter, the 38-year-old finally hit a three-pointer after missing his first two attempts.
After scoring eight points in the opening quarter, the four-time NBA champion surged by 28 points in the second quarter.
The record was 16 points away at halftime when James was subbed off with 5:34 left in the half.
He was only eight points away from the record after back-to-back three-pointers midway through the third quarter, before a driving layup put him within six points.
After two more layups, he was two points away before converting his long-range shot.
James had been at pains to dampen the anticipation surrounding his record chase this season, insisting that his priority remained helping the Lakers become a competitive outfit once more.
NBA’s all-time top scorers
- LeBron James – 38,390 points, 1,410 games
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – 38,387 points, 1,560 games
- Karl Malone – 36,928 points,1,476 games
- Kobe Bryant – 33,643 points, 1,346 games
- Michael Jordan – 32,292 points, 1,072 games
- Dirk Nowitzki – 31,560 points, 1,522 games
- Wilt Chamberlain – 31,419 points, 1,045 games
- Shaquille O’Neal – 28,596 points, 1,207 games
- Carmelo Anthony – 28,289 points, 1,260 games
- Moses Malone – 27,409 points, 1,329 games
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.
Lebron James, meanwhile, declined to be drawn on whether his scoring record meant he should now be considered the greatest basketball player in history