The NBA has a new points king, and it’s the king himself.
LeBron James surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) as the NBA’s all-time points leader on Tuesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder, a record that had been held for almost four decades.
James, who brought back the headband for the first time in years, needed 36 points on the night to surpass the Los Angeles Lakers legend, who was sitting front row – and he got it with ease.
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James was clearly feeling the nerves early, missing his first couple of shots from the floor. And don’t let him tell you he wasn’t thinking about it – the overhead earphones he wore before the game read “38,388,” the number of career points needed to rewrite the history books.
But after draining a three, he got into his groove. He scored eight points in the first quarter and went for another dozen in the second to head to the locker room 16 points away from the magic number. He was mic’d up for the occasion, and the TNT broadcast showed him telling his two sons “I’ll get it” at halftime.
In the third quarter, he knocked down back-to-back threes to get to single digits, putting the Crypto.com Arena crowd on their feet. After a layup, he sat for a few minutes, and re-entered the game with 2:14 to go in the third, needing just six points.
Two layups got him to within one basket, and he banged a fadeaway from the elbow to set the record.
The game was paused for a ceremony where James was greeted by his family, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, and Abdul-Jabbar, who handed him the ball he used to break the record. James celebrated the shot, but quickly turned emotional during the ceremony, and most certainly when he shook hands with the legend he just passed.
James then grabbed the mic to thank his family and friends, and made sure fans gave Abdul-Jabbar a standing ovation.
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James accomplished the feat in the 1,410th game of his career – Abdul-Jabbar, who broke Wilt Chamberlain’s then record of 31,419 on April 5, 1984 – just about nine months before James was born – played in 1,560.
In a Laker phenomenon, all three of James, Abdul-Jabbar, and Chamberlain donned the purple and gold.
The new all-time points leader scored his first points on Oct. 29, 2003 as a Cleveland Cavalier in Sacramento with a baseline pull-up jumper – he scored 25 points in his NBA debut, to go along with nine assists and six rebounds. Clearly, that was just a microcosm of what was two come for the next two decades.
It’s perhaps the best individual accomplishment of James’ career – a record that was once considered unlikely to be broken is now probably going to be shattered. Of course, that all depends on how much longer the 38-year-old plays for, but the four-time MVP and NBA Champion is beating father time by averaging over 30 points per game in his 20th NBA season. Entering Tuesday, since turning 38, he was putting up 33.7 points per contest.
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There’s an outside chance that James will take over John Stockton as the all-time assists leader (he had 15,806), but there is certainly a realistic chance that he can retire in second place. He currently ranks fourth all-time, and is less than 2,000 away from Jason Kidd’s 12,091.
But for now, and for a long time coming, King James is King Points.