LeBron James has reached the top.
The Lakes star surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and claimed the title for most points scored by a player in NBA history.
The Lakers star scored the record-breaking point against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Crypto.com Arena in the third quarter on Tuesday. James inherited the scoring title from Abdul-Jabbar, who previously held the record with 38,387 points.
“Just want to say thank you to the Laker faithful, you guys are one of a kind,” James said in a tearful address to the Los Angeles crowd. “To be in the presence of a legend and one of the greatest such as Kareem is humbling. Give a standing ovation to the captain, please. Everybody that’s ever been a part of this run for the last 20 years, I just want to say thank you. … F–k man… thank you guys!”
James hit a fall-away jumper from the left elbow with 10.9 seconds left in the third quarter to pull the Lakers with in 104-99 for his 36th point of the night.
The game immediately stopped and there was an on-court ceremony involved James, Abdul-Jabbar and NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
“A record that has stood nearly 40 years,” Silver said, during a literal passing of the ball from Adbul-Jabbar to James, “Which Kareem, many people thought would never be broken. LeBron, you are the NBA’s all-time scoring leader. Congratulations!”
LeBron James is now the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.AP
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar honors LeBron James for becoming the all-time NBA scoring leader during the third quarter of the Lakers’ game against the Thunder.Getty Images
The ascension of James — to the pinnacle of NBA history while becoming a legendary figure across the entire sports industry — can be dissected into at least four chapters once he reached the NBA as an 18-year-old, No. 1-overall pick in 2003. Everything started in Cleveland, the franchise located near his hometown of Akron, Ohio, and his legacy started budding when he scored 25 points in his NBA debut against Sacramento and averaged 20.9 for the season.
James capped that campaign with a Rookie of the Year honor. He made his first appearance in the All-Star Game the following year. The first NBA Finals appearance arrived in 2007, when the Cavaliers went on a postseason run but were eventually swept by the Spurs.
LeBron James breaking the NBA’s all-time scoring mark with a third-quarter jumper.AP
Then, following the 2010 season, a second chapter began and not without controversy. It featured betrayal — to some — and the arrival of a new superteam to others. It started with “The Decision,” in which James announced he was leaving his home state to join Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in Miami. The hyped TV show, which included a drawn-out interview from Jim Gray on ESPN, was met with widespread criticism and put a bullseye on the back of the three South Beach stars.
Two seasons later, James had clinched his first NBA title and second NBA MVP award. He’d never again lead the league in scoring like he did in 2007-08 (30.0), but his points-per-game average never dipped below 25, either. In 2011-12, James averaged 27.1, 7.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game.
LeBron James shoots a layup during the Lakers’ game against the Thunder on Monday night.Getty Images
Kobe Bryant guards LeBron James during his rookie season in 2003.NBAE via Getty Images
But after four seasons with the Heat, another decision arrived. This time, James opted to return home, to that franchise closest to Akron, and it paid dividends when he led the Cavaliers to their first championship — and James’ third title — in 2015-16. It was accomplished with a dramatic 3-1 comeback in the NBA Finals against the Warriors, a budding superteam and dynasty of their own.
Then, following the 2018 campaign, James bolted for the West Coast. He joined a storied franchise, in a storied city, that was in the middle of anything but a storied stretch. The Lakers hadn’t made the playoffs in five seasons. James changed that in just his second year with the team. And he won his fourth NBA title in 2019-20 amid the strangest of backdrops — inside a bubble at Disney World, with COVID-19 tests, protocols and restrictions overshadowing anything that unfolded on the court.
It’s where James, Anthony Davis and others orchestrated the Lakers’ return to the top of the NBA. James averaged a double-double that season, recording 25.3 points per game and compiling 10.2 assists per game. It’s the only year in his career, so far, where he has averaged more than 10 assists per game.
LeBron James was a budding star from Akron, Ohio, when the Cavaliers selected him No. 1 overall in 2003.Getty Images
Lebron James celebrating 2012 NBA Finals with family.Getty Images
LeBron James and sportscaster Jim Gray starred in “The Decision” in 2010.Getty Images
In the years since, James has continued to compile jaw-dropping numbers even as the team has struggled on the floor. Most recently, at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 31, he passed Mark Jackson and Steve Nash to move into fourth all-time for assists.
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“I didn’t get to this point in my career by thinking about records or how many points I have,” James said following the Lakers’ win over the Knicks on Jan. 31 at Madison Square Garden. “I just play the game the right way. I approach the game every night on trying to be a triple threat.”
James’ legacy has extended across three decades, and though the 38-year-old’s playing days won’t last forever, his impact on the game will continue beyond his retirement date — whenever that might be.
Abdul-Jabbar played 20 seasons in the NBA, retiring at age 42 and had a career average of 24.6 points per game an will forever live on in Lakers lore. At 7-foot-2, Abdul-Jabbar dominated the league alongside Magic Johnson when he was drafted in 1979. This would be known as the “Showtime” era, a dynasty that would win five championships.
The current-day Lakers have a new star duo — with James and Davis paired together — but the same success hasn’t quite followed. However, James now has become a four-time NBA champion, Finals MVP and NBA MVP, on top of breaking numerous other records prior to the scoring record. He became the first player in NBA history to have at 30,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, and 10,000 assists last season as well as breaking Michael Jordan’s double-digit scoring streak in 2018.
LeBron James and wife Savannah at the premiere of “Hustle” in 2022.AFP via Getty Images
LeBron James, pictured with the Heat, finally won his first of four NBA titles in 2012.Getty Images
LeBron James shoots the ball during the Lakers’ game against the Thunder on Tuesday night.AP
James has averaged at least 25.0 points per game for 18 straight seasons and is looking for his 19th this year. He averaged over 30 points a game last year and is following the same mark this year. The unbelievable longevity of James has been a large part in why he is now the all-time leading scorer.
A run for another championship ring this year seems a bit unrealistic at this point in the season, but this latest achievement reaffirms his continued dominance is still felt in the NBA.