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Milestone baskets in LeBron James' career

As LeBron James reaches 40,000 career points, here are some of the most memorable baskets from his NBA career.

Now in his 21st NBA season, Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James is one of the most accomplished players in NBA history with four Kia MVPs, four Finals MVPs, four NBA titles, 20 All-Star appearances and 19 All-NBA nods.

An all-around talent who can gather triple-doubles with ease, James in recent years passed his idol, Michael Jordan, and his friend, Kobe Bryant, to move into third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Then, in the 2022-23 season, he surpassed Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the all-time No. 1 spot.

As James continues to climb the NBA record books, here’s a look back at some milestone regular-season scoring moments from his career.

1. First-ever career points

When: Oct. 29, 2003

The hype surrounding LeBron James, the No. 1 pick of the 2003 Draft, was immense before he ever stepped on an NBA court. In the first game of his NBA career, he made a 16-foot jumper off an assist from Ricky Davis for his first career points. An 18-year-old rookie, James finished with 25 points, six rebounds and nine assists in a 106-92 loss to the Sacramento Kings.

2. Youngest to ever score 5,000 career points

When: Jan. 21, 2006

In torching the Utah Jazz for 51 points in the 2005-06 season, James became the youngest player to ever reach 5,000 career points. A 21-year-old, James needed 45 points to pass Bryant as the youngest to ever reach 5,000. Bryant was 22 when he scored his 5,000th point. 

3. LeBron reaches 10,000 career points

When: Feb. 27, 2008

James returned from a first-half ankle injury to score 26 and become the youngest player in NBA history to reach 10,000 points. James reached the milestone at 23 years and 59 days, more than a year younger than Bryant was when he hit the milestone in 2003 (24 years, 193 days). It took James 368 games to do it — the ninth-fastest in league history.

4. Becomes Cavs’ all-time leading scorer

When: March 21, 2008

James passed Brad Daugherty as Cleveland’s career scoring leader in the first quarter and finished with 29 points. The sellout crowd at Quicken Loans Arena (now renamed Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse) immediately rose to give James a thundering ovation and when then-coach Mike Brown called a timeout, the All-Star forward walked to the bench to receive high-fives and hugs from his teammates.

5. LeBron reaches 15,000 career points

When: March 19, 2010

James got points No. 15,000 and 15,001 on free throws with 6:39 to go in the first quarter. He scored 13 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bulls, giving him 15,026 in his career at the game’s end. James’ reaching of that mark highlighted several other scoring plateaus in the 2009-10 season, including the 13,000-point mark (on Oct. 27, 2009 vs. the Celtics) and the 14,000-point mark (on Jan. 2, 2010 vs. the Nets).

6. LeBron reaches 20,000 career points

When: Jan. 16, 2013

In sinking a short jumper with 2:45 to go in the second quarter, James raised his career scoring total to 20,001, becoming the 38th player in NBA history to join that club. And, in doing so, he became the youngest player ever to reach that plateau.

7. Scores career-high 61 points

When: March 3, 2014

James put on the best scoring show of his NBA career, pouring in 61 points to set a Miami Heat record in a 124-107 win against the Charlotte Bobcats. James made 22-for-33 shots from the field, including his first eight 3-point attempts.

8. Youngest to reach 25,000 points

When: Nov. 2, 2015

James notched his 25,000th and 25,001st points on an alley-oop from Matthew Dellavedova with 8:07 left in the fourth quarter. He had a near triple-double in the win (22 points, 11 assists, nine rebounds) and, at the time, became the sixth active player with 25,000 points and the 20th player overall.

9. LeBron enters 30,000-point club

When: Jan. 23, 2018

James became the seventh player with 30,000 career points when he hit a jumper with one second left in the first quarter of the Cavaliers’ 114-102 loss to the Spurs. The 33-year-old James joined Abdul-Jabbar (38,387 points), Karl Malone (36,928), Bryant (33,643), Jordan (32,292), Wilt Chamberlain (31,419) and Dirk Nowitzki (30,808 at the time) on the list of 30,000-point scorers.

10. LeBron’s double-digit scoring record

When: March 30, 2018

James reached double figures in scoring for the 867th consecutive game, breaking the all-time record set by Jordan. The last time James failed to score at least 10 points was on Jan. 5, 2007, when he scored eight points on 3-of-13 shooting against the Milwaukee Bucks.

11. LeBron passes Wilt

When: Nov. 14, 2018

James reached 31,420 career points with an and-1 free throw in the fourth quarter to pass Chamberlain. He finished the game with a season-high 44 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in the Lakers’ 126-117 win over the Portland Trail Blazers. His 44 points were the most a Laker had scored in a game since the late Kobe Bryant’s 60-point performance in the final game of his career.

12. LeBron passes Jordan for No. 4

When: March 6, 2019

James scored his 32,293rd career point on a driving layup against the Denver Nuggets. In doing so, he surpassed Jordan for the No. 4 spot on the NBA’s all-time scoring charts. At the time, James only trailed Abdul-Jabbar (38,387 points), Malone (36,928) and Bryant (33,643).

13. LeBron passes Kobe for No. 3

When: Jan. 25, 2020

James entered the game in Philadelphia 18 points shy of passing Bryant, and a driving right-handed layup gave him 33,644 career points. Bryant congratulated James via Twitter not long after his historic basket. That tweet would prove to be the final social media posting by the Hall of Famer, who died along with eight other people in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif.

14. LeBron scores 10+ points in 1,000th straight game

When: Dec. 30, 2020

James celebrated his 36th birthday by becoming the first player in NBA history to have 1,000 straight games with at least 10 points. His baby hook shot in the second quarter in San Antonio gave him 11 points for the game, marking the 1,000th straight game scoring in double-digits.

15. LeBron passes Malone for No. 2

When: March 19, 2022

James entered the Lakers’ road game against the Wizards needing 19 points to surpass Hall of Famer and Utah Jazz legend Malone for No. 2 on the all-time scoring list. After a six-point first quarter, James went on a scoring binge in the second that included a dunk and three 3-pointers. The last of those 3s brought him even with Malone. Then he made a layup off a backdoor cut with 5:20 left in the quarter to move ahead.

16. LeBron becomes NBA’s all-time leading scorer

When: Feb. 7, 2023

James became the NBA’s career scoring leader on a stepback jumper late in the third quarter against the Thunder, giving him 16 points in the period, the necessary 36 for the game and 38,388 for his illustrious career — now more than any other player in NBA history.

17. LeBron reaches 40,000 career points

When: March 2, 2024

In a primetime battle on ABC against two-time Kia MVP Nikola Jokic, James came into the game needing just nine points to reach the milestone. That moment came early, spinning past a defender for a smooth layup early in the second quarter to reach the 40K summit. James finished the game with 26 points in a 124-114 loss.