LeBron James became the association’s all-time leading scorer in the Los Angeles Lakers’ game against the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday, surpassing the record that six-time NBA MVP Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had held for 39 years.
With 10.9 seconds left in the third quarter, James sank a stepback jumper from the left elbow – scoring his 36th point of the game and 38,388th of his career. He stretched his arms in celebration as the supercharged crowd at Los Angeles’ Crypto.com Arena went into a frenzy.
Officials paused the game for minutes to honor him on the court, where his mother, wife and children met and embraced him. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver congratulated him, and Abdul-Jabbar – in attendance and clapping as James neared the record – handed him a game ball at center court.
“I just want to say thank you to the Laker faithful. You guys are one of a kind,” James said into a microphone.
He asked the crowd to give Kareem a standing ovation.
“Everybody that’s ever been a part of this run with me the last … 20-plus years, I just want to say I thank you so much, because I wouldn’t be me without y’all.”
James scored two more points in the fourth quarter in a 133-130 loss. But the night – just like so many big moments in his career – belonged to him.
The 38-year-old needed fewer games than the legendary goggles-wearing center to hit the top of the scoring list – 1,409 to Abdul-Jabbar’s 1,560. James’ record-breaking feat is even more impressive given he’s widely considered a pass-first player in the league, recently claiming the fourth spot in the NBA’s all-time assist list.
LeBron James’ scoring tactics have changed over the years
A comparison of more than 2,700 shots from the 2003-04 and 2021-22 seasons shows that James is less reliant on mid-range attempts and now tries to score more from beyond the three-point line and around the hoop.
Silver released a statement congratulating James “on breaking one of the most hallowed records in all of sports.”
“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,” Silver’s statement reads.