NBA.com takes a look back at the top moments that define the history of the NBA.
The setting for one of the NBA’s historic moments was unusual, indeed: the Thomas and Mack Center on the campus of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, where the Utah Jazz played a few of their “home” games during the 1980s in an effort to attract new fans.
But if the setting was strange, the shot that made Kareem Abdul-Jabbar the NBA’s career scoring leader on April 5, 1984, was familiar indeed: a graceful, high-arching sky hook from the baseline, the shot that had become his trademark over a long and successful career.
Magic Johnson set up the basket, feeding the ball to Abdul-Jabbar in the low post. That was appropriate, since Johnson’s arrival in Los Angeles in 1979 provided a boost to Abdul-Jabbar’s career. The veteran fed off the rookie’s energy, and the result was a championship in 1980, the first of five the pair would share in the 1980s.
Abdul-Jabbar caught the entry pass with Utah’s 7-foot-4 Mark Eaton behind him. He faked to his right, toward the lane, and Eaton leaned just enough to take himself out of the play.
Kareem whirled in the opposite direction, toward the left baseline, and as Eaton struggled to recover, he leaped off his left foot toward the basket, his right arm stretched high above his head as he released one of the greatest weapons in sports history. The sky hook rolled off his fingers and nestled through the net, raising his career scoring total to 31,420, one point more than Wilt Chamberlain’s previous record.
Abdul-Jabbar went on to complete his 20-year NBA career in 1988-89 with 38,387 points in regular season play, 5,762 points in the playoffs and 251 points in All-Star Games — all NBA career records at the time.