LeBron James Breaks Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s NBA Points Record
LeBron James broke one of the NBA’s loftiest records Tuesday night at Crypto.com Arena, scoring 38,388 points to surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and become the league’s all-time leading scorer.
James entered the night’s game against Oklahoma City Thunder just 36 points away from passing Abdul-Jabbar’s historic record. In the third quarter, LeBron’s history-making bucket arrived with a fadeaway over Kenrich Williams.
Abdul-Jabbar’s old record of 38,387 points stood for a remarkable 34 years (this record just comprises points during regular season games, not the playoffs). The NBA great enjoyed a 20-year career, playing with the Milwaukee Bucks from 1969 to 1975, before joining the Los Angeles Lakers, where he remained until his retirement in 1989. In total, it took Abdul-Jabbar 1,560 games to set his record.
“Lebron has earned it. He’s worked hard for 20 years. More power to him,” Abdul-Jabbar said during an appearance on the Jennifer Hudson Show. “I didn’t really play to deal with records; I wanted to lead my team to the championship. I was fortunate enough to be on the winning team six times, and I was MVP twice. I’m satisfied with that. You can’t have everything for too long. Records were made to be broken. More power to Lebron. I hope he enjoys it and does all that he wants to during his career and after his career.”
James, at this point in his career, has also been in the NBA for 20 years, having entered the league out of high school in 2003. In contrast, however, he’s broken Abdul-Jabbar’s record in just 1,409 games. James’ efficiency in this regard can partly be attributed to his solid three-point shooting. He’s hit 2,233 threes and has three-point percentage of 34.4%; meanwhile, Abdul-Jabbar only hit one regular season three-pointer in his entire career. (The three-point line was introduced in 1979, halfway through Abdul-Jabbar’s career, though the big man clearly had no reason to learn to shoot from distance when he was putting up the numbers he was from close range.)
Beyond just breaking the NBA’s scoring record, James is really the first person to even come close to Abdul-Jabbar’s total. Before him, the only player to really sniff the points record was Karl Malone, who was still short by 1,459 points when he retired in 2004 with 36,928. Kobe Bryant, meanwhile, scored only 33,643 points in his career, and Michael Jordan put up 32,292.
In a recent interview with ESPN, James spoke about approaching Abdul-Jabbar’s record even though, as he put it, leading the league in scoring was never a goal he set for himself during his career.
“I wanted to be Rookie of the Year, I wanted to be an MVP in this league, I wanted to win Championships, be an All-Star,” James said. “I wanted to lead the league in assists, make all-defensive team, Defensive Player of the Year. I never said I wanted to lead the league in scoring, or for sure be the all-time leader in scoring… To sit here and actually be on the brink of it actually happening is pretty crazy.”
This story was updated on 2/10 at 3:10 pm with Abdul-Jabbar’s comments about the record.
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