Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer on Tuesday, setting the new mark with a fadeaway jumpshot late in the third quarter of a home game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
‘King James’, who entered the game needing 36 points to break Abdul-Jabbar’s record of 38,387, sent the sold-out crowd into a frenzy when the ball splashed through the net, raising his arms in triumph as his team mates embraced him.
Lakers great Abdul-Jabbar, who took the title from Wilt Chamberlain with his signature skyhook on April 5, 1984, sat courtside at Tuesday’s game and stood to applaud James after the record was broken.
Play was stopped to recognize the achievement and to let James address the crowd.
“I just want to say thank you to the Laker faithful, you guys are one of a kind,” James said.
“To be able to be in the presence of such a legend as Kareem is unbelievable, it’s very humbling. Please give a standing ovation to ‘The Captain.'”
Tributes from his family, U.S. President Joe Biden and students from his “I Promise School” were played inside the arena, while NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told Reuters it was an “historic moment”.
“These types of significant milestones capture the attention of not only basketball fans but broader society,” Silver said.
“LeBron’s pursuit of the scoring record is no exception and billions of people will become aware of this milestone.”
All season long it has been a question of when, not if, James would topple the record. Some thought it may come during Thursday’s home game against Milwaukee but James had other ideas.
Arriving at the arena in a jet black suit, black shirt and dark sunglasses, James looked like he was going to a funeral.
Hours later, he buried Abdul-Jabbar’s record.
A deafening roar greeted him during the pre-game introductions and another came when he buried a three-pointer five minutes into the opening quarter for his first points of the night.
He cut the number he needed to single digits on a straightway three in the second half that sent fans leaping from their seats before the 21-foot, history-making bucket arrived with 10 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
“It’s so surreal, because it’s something I never made a goal of mine or something I set out to do,” James said after the game. “It just happened.”
Drafted into the league as a teenager, the Akron, Ohio native has more than delivered on the massive expectations put on his broad shoulders at a young age.
A versatile forward, he helping usher in the era of position-less basketball, winning four titles with three different teams, four MVP awards and four Finals MVP awards.
James sits top of the regular season points list followed by Abdul-Jabbar with Utah Jazz great Karl Malone (36,928), late Lakers legend Kobe Bryant (33,643) and Chicago Bulls icon Michael Jordan (32,292) rounding out the top five.
“When I read about the history of the game I never thought that this record would ever be touched,” James said.
“I just didn’t think nobody would have that type of longevity to come out on the floor and play at that level for so long.
“So it’s just a complete honor to be a part of this league, to be a part of some of the greats that have ever played this game and to be right at the apex with them.”
Last month, the 38-year-old was named to a record-tying 19th All Star game, a mark also held by Abdul-Jabbar.
“For sure I know I can play a couple more years,” James said.
“The way I’m feeling, the way my body has been reacting to me throughout the course of this season, I know I can play a couple more years.
“It’s all about my mind. My mind is still into it and I am still motivated to go out and try to compete for championships because I feel like that’s what I can still do.”
Despite James’ historic night, the Lakers fell 133-130 to the Thunder and are now 25-30 on the season.