(LOS ANGELES) — The king stands alone.
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James set the record for most career points in NBA history Tuesday, toppling Hall of Famer and fellow Laker Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Late in the third quarter during their game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, James scored his 36th point of the night, for a career total of 38,388 points.
Abdul-Jabbar — who was in attendance at Tuesday’s game — set the record April 5, 1984, and increased the record total to 38,387 points by the time he stepped away from the game five years later. James, who doesn’t appear likely to retire in the next few years, could top 40,000 before all is said and done.
James scored 27 points on Saturday against New Orleans to pull within 36 points of the record. He played 40 minutes in the game, telling reporters in the locker room afterward, “I’m tired as hell.”
Abdul-Jabbar was in attendance at the Lakers’ game to see James surpass his record.
The record, once thought untouchable, had stood since Abdul-Jabbar’s retirement in 1989. In fact, when Abdul-Jabbar set the record in the spring of 1984 — passing Wilt Chamberlain — James wasn’t even born. And while Abdul-Jabbar has held the record for 39 years, Chamberlain only held it for 11 years.
Utah Jazz forward Karl Malone now stands third, but he was still nearly 1,500 points shy of the former Lakers center when he retired after 19 seasons in the NBA.
Kobe Bryant, with nearly 5,000 points fewer than James, stands fourth all-time, with Michael Jordan rounding out the top 5.
Four of the top 5 players on the list — all but Jordan — played for the Los Angeles Lakers at one point in their careers.
James entered the league in 2003, already a phenom after a legendary high school career earned him the top overall selection in the NBA draft, and immediately became a top scorer. In his rookie season, he averaged 20.9 points per game and only went up from there.
He only led the league in scoring once — his 30 points per game in 2007-2008 — but has averaged at least 27 points per game 12 times, including this season. His highest single-season total was 31.4 points per game in his third season.
He scored 23,119 points in 11 seasons in Cleveland, split between two stays; scored 7,919 points in Miami; and now has just over 7,300 points in his time with Los Angeles.
James, who has made the playoffs in 15 of 19 seasons, already held the record for most points in NBA history combining the regular season and the playoffs.
Ironically, James has never been known as a pure scorer. He’s fashioned his game more off Magic Johnson — part facilitator, part scorer. James also stands fifth in the NBA all time in regular season and postseason assists, behind only Chris Paul, Johnson, Jason Kidd and John Stockton. He’s unlikely to reach Stockton’s astronomical total, but could finish his career second all time.
“The scoring record was never even thought of in my head, because I’ve always been a pass-first guy,” James told ESPN in a sit-down interview in January. “I’ve always enjoyed seeing the excitement of my teammates.”
He added, “I don’t know how I’m going to feel until that moment”
Carmelo Anthony, who entered the league the same season as James, is second among active all-time scoring leaders, but he stands a full 10,000 points behind. Anthony, who has remained unsigned this season but hasn’t retired, is six months older than James.
Kevin Durant is third among active players with over 26,684 points, about 12,000 points behind James. Durant, 34, has scored just shy of 12,000 points in the last eight seasons combined.
James is under contract for two more seasons in Los Angeles. He has said the last thing on his list of goals is to play with his son, Bronny. The 18-year-old prospect is currently a senior in high school and deciding where to go to college in the fall.
Abdul-Jabbar played until he was 41, but he also played four seasons at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he won three NCAA titles and three national player of the year honors, while James went straight to the pros.
“I’ll be very happy for him,” Abdul-Jabbar told ESPN about James breaking his record in an interview before the season started. “The game always improves when records like that are broken, so LeBron should enjoy his achievement. He’s worked very hard to get this far and for him, he’ll get to wait and see who might be lucky enough to break his record if that’s gonna happen.”
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