After muscling past his defender for an and-1 floater, LeBron James stepped to the foul line and sunk his free throw, making league history in the process.
With that extra point, he passed Wilt Chamberlain for the NBA’s fifth-most points of all-time.
“To do what he did and get on the top five of that list and play basketball the way he plays basketball — with how unselfish he is and how great he is at getting his teammates involved — is something that should be praised and talked about,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said.
“I’m doing my part congratulating one of the all-time greats on a great accomplishment.”
By dropping 44 points against Portland on Wednesday, James — who succeeded Dirk Nowitzki for sixth place just three weeks ago — now has 31,425 career points.
Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387), Karl Malone (36,928), Kobe Bryant (33,643) and Michael Jordan (32,292) have ever scored more. James is on pace to pass Jordan this season.
LeBron is undeniably one of the greatest scorers the league has ever seen, ascending to fifth all-time in points despite playing just the 52nd-most games.
His 27.15 career scoring average trails only Jordan (30.12), Chamberlain (30.07) and Elgin Baylor (27.36).
Now a member of the Lakers, it was only fitting that James surpassed Chamberlain in the arena where his jersey hangs in the rafters.
Chamberlain enjoyed a 14-year career, leading the league in scoring in half of those. He played from 1959-73, concluding with five seasons as a Laker.
“[Chamberlain was] one of the most dominant forces we ever had in our game, along with Shaq,” James said. “One of the greatest Lakers that ever played the game.
“Hundred-point scorer. One of the greatest scorers and rebounds to ever play this game. Multi-sport, [multi]-dimension type of athlete. People never saw something like that in that era. Just dominated in all walks of life, not only basketball.”
When the buzzer sounded on his historic night, James immediately tracked down the game ball.
Later, he revealed that he planned to send the ball and his uniform to the I Promise School, which he founded in Akron, Ohio.
“Any time my name is mentioned with some of the greats that played this game, I always think of my hometown and where I come from and how far I’ve come,” James said. “That’s it for me.”