LeBron James: Making History

LeBron James surpasses Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for NBA career scoring record

It took almost 4 decades, but the NBA finally has a new all-time scoring champion.

The burning question entering Tuesday’s contest between the Lakers and the Thunder was whether LeBron James could score the 36 points he needed to finally break Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s career NBA scoring record.

In true LeBron fashion, he didn’t even need a full game.

James sank a 21-foot turnaround with 10.9 seconds left in the third quarter at Crypto.com Arena, 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.

“I never thought anybody could beat Kareem’s record,” Magic Johnson said during a congratulatory clip, speaking for most NBA observers.

That includes James, who said in the run-up to Tuesday’s game that he never seriously contemplated besting Abdul-Jabbar’s record until recently given how unreachable it felt.

But James, who also played multiple stints in Cleveland bracketing a stretch in Miami, has followed the same path as his fellow Lakers star with consistent, high-level excellence and historic longevity. With double-figure points in all but eight career games, and scoring averages of at least 25 points per game in all 19 seasons since his rookie campaign in 2003-04, James consistently chipped away at the standard Abdul-Jabbar initially set in 1984 and continued to build on until his retirement in 1989.

“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.”

Re-live the moment when LeBron James surpasses Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's to become the NBA's all-time leading scorer.

James now joins a lineage of record holders started by Joe Fulks and George Mikan, extended by Dolph Schayes, Bob Pettit and Wilt Chamberlain, and seemingly put completely out of reach by Abdul-Jabbar.

Or so we thought.

“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 as the game was stopped for a brief ceremony at center court. “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.”

LeBron James becomes the all-time leading scorer by passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Said Abdul-Jabbar, “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.”

NBA’s All-Time scoring list (Top 10)

1 LeBron James  38,390 1,410 53,741 14,053 27,829 50.5
2 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 38,387 1,560 57,446 15,837 28,307 55.9
3 Karl Malone 36,928 1,476 54,852 13,528 26,210 51.6
4 Kobe Bryant 33,643 1,346 48,643 11,719 26,200 44.7
5 Michael Jordan 32,292 1,072 41,010 12,192 24,537 49.7
6 Dirk Nowitzki 31,560 1,522 51,367 11,169 23,734 47.1
7 Wilt Chamberlain 31,419 1,045 47,859 12,681 23,497 54
8 Shaquille O’Neal 28,596 1,207 41,917 11,330 19,457 58.2
9 Carmelo Anthony 28,289 1,260 43,513 10,119 22,643 44.7
10 Moses Malone 27,409 1,329 45,071 9,435 19,225 49.1

LeBron’s last 5 games