The King now stands alone at the top of the NBA’s scoring list.
On Tuesday evening, LeBron James forever etched his name in NBA immortality by passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to become the NBA's all-time leading scorer in front of a raucous crowd at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles.
Needing 36 points to break the one sport's most hallowed records, James made a 14-ft fadeaway jump shot against the Oklahoma Thunder that gave him 38,388 points and counting.
Although the Lakers were defeated by the Thunder 133-130, James finished the night with 38 points—including four three-pointers, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals.
As the game was paused to recognize the significant achievement, James, overwhelmed by the moment, broke down in tears. He was joined at center court by his wife Savannah, his mother Gloria, and his sons Bronny and Bryce.
Abdul-Jabbar, who held the record for almost 40 years, was in attendance to give James the game ball as the top two scorers embraced each other at center court.
“To be in the presence of such a legend and great as Kareem, it means so much to me. It’s very humbling,” James said. “To everybody who’s ever been a part of this run with me the last 20 years, I just want to say thank you so much.”
“To the NBA … I thank you guys so much for letting me be part of something I’ve always dreamed about. I would never, ever in a million years dreamed it’s better than what it is tonight,” he continued.“I just want to say thank you to the Laker faithful. You guys are one of a kind,” James said into a microphone.”
"Thank you so much. All your help. All your passion. All your sacrifices that helped me get to this point. To the NBA, to Adam Silver, to the late great David Stern, I thank you guys so much for allowing me to be a part of something I've always dreamed about,” he added.” And I would never, ever in a million years dreamt this any better than what it's been tonight. So... F— man, thank you guys."
“Congratulations to LeBron on breaking one of the most hallowed records in all of sports by becoming the NBA’s all-time scoring leader,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said via statement. “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.”
Abdul-Jabbar praised James for his dedication and longevity.
“LeBron’s career is one of someone who planned to dominate this game. He had the size and the talent to step right into the NBA, and he immediately had his effect. It’s gone on for 20 years now. He has that indefinable essence that you call leadership, that people want to get behind him,” Abdul-Jabbar said.
Many celebrities were on hand to witness the historic event including Magic Johnson, Denzel Washington, Jay-Z, and many more. Rihanna, Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, and Drake, all appeared in a tribute video to honor James’ achievement. Also, his former teams, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Miami Heat released tribute videos marking the historic moment.
“I never thought that Kareem’s scoring record would be broken by anybody but that says how special you are… You’ve changed the game, worldwide. You changed the game of basketball,” Johnson said in the video.
After the game, James reflected upon his legacy and how he felt to make history yet again.
"I write 'The Man In The Arena' on my shoe every single night from Theodore Roosevelt," he said. "Tonight, I actually felt like I was sitting on top of the arena when that shot went in, and the roar from the crowd. I'm not sure if I would be able to feel that feeling again unless it's a game-winning Finals shot.”
"Everything just stopped. It gave me an opportunity to embrace it and look around and seeing my family, the fans, my friends,” James said. “ It was pretty cool. I probably can count on my hands how many times I have cried in 20 years, either in happiness or in defeat. So that moment was one of them when I kind of teared up a little bit. It was 'I can't believe what's going on' tears."
In his 20th season, remarkably, James is playing some of the best basketball of his career. He’s averaging 30.2 points, 8.5 rebounds, 7.0 assists, and was named to his record-tying 19th All-Star game.