At the start of the NBA season, LeBron James was 1325 points behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the NBA’s all-time scoring record. Kareem passed Wilt Chamberlain on April 5,1984, that is how long the scoring record has stood.
We were all witnesses on February 7, 2023, as James became the NBA’s career scoring leader.
James arrived to the Los Angeles Lakers home game hosting the Oklahoma City Thunder wearing a black satin suit before history was made. His outfit featured a black button-down shirt with pearlized buttons undone two notches. On the breast of the jacket, James donned two gold pins; one shaped like a rose and the other in a rectangular shape with the words “Stay Present” emblazed on it.
James owned it with Abdul-Jabbar in attendance on a step back jumper late in the third quarter. He finished with 38 points in a 133-130 loss to the Thunder.
“I didn’t set this as a goal, so that’s probably why it’s so surreal and so weird to me,” James said. “I never talked about being the all-time scorer in NBA history … until my numbers started getting closer and closer, and I was like, ‘Oh wow, this is crazy. This is weird, but I guess I’m doing it.’”
James is nicknamed “King James” however the greatness that follows his name continues to be written this is a new chapter.
“If we just played him at any of the five positions from day one of the season all they way to end. Would he at that time be the best at that position regardless? Play him at point the entire season and he can’t play any other position,” Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Would he be the best point guard in the league? Same as the two, three, the four.”
James has always been a player who has played the game the right way, known for being a passer first, passing Kareem should be described as amazing.
“We started playing him at the four, he did not totally love it, got to a point that when he embraced it he was the best four at those minutes,” Spoelstra added. “I always regret we did not play him at the five. If we played him at the five he probably would have been the best five in the league. It bothers me to this day.”
LeBron James’ story will arguably be the greatest sports story of all time with Serena Williams. Kobe Bryant was great but he struggled early in his career, the same can be said for Kevin Garnett both of whom entered the NBA out of high school before they became great. James is the only player who entered the NBA at eighteen who was as good as advertised to this day. He averaged 21 points, six assists and six rebounds as a rookie.
“I do know how much I put into the game, how much I put into my body, my mind, I kind of surprise myself sometimes, when you look at the history of the game, I have followed the game for so long since I was 8 or 9 years old when I realize this is the game I love,” James said. “I started to read about the history of the game, the people who have come to the game and how long they have been doing it for and things of that nature, does not seem many has played at this level with this many years and this many miles and things on their resume.”
A very important note to remind LeBron James enthusiasts, he does have a four-year head start on Abdul-Jabbar and he shoots three pointers. Abdul-Jabbar attended college for four years furthermore was unable to play as freshman and won three national titles.
“I am very humbled at the same time play the game that I love at this level still be the focal point of teams game plan. This is how we need to stop him or neutralize what he does or things of that nature,” James said. “That is something I pride myself on being that level of player every single night. Very surprising still but very humbled to play the game that I love play every night.”
LeBron James enthusiasts there is more to say when it comes James longevity versus Abdul-Jabbar in a moment.
For the fans in attendance the night he broke the record. Lebron was going to break the record. He is the ultimate showman.
He has been known to not be a scorer for a man his size.
There are so many things you would spot light before his scoring ability, But he is “L.J.”, “The Chosen One,” “The King.”
James does not have a patent move other than attacking the basket with the tomahawk jam.
The well-rounded nature that James brings to the table is the narrative nature of him as a player and his career.
James appeared the most unstoppable in a Miami Heat uniform in his career. He stood out among a team with teammates Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade leading the Heat to a 27 game win streak during the 2012-13 season.
“He was already into the commitment into all the hours and time outside of the building. That meant his nutrition; working out, sleep basically everything people have learned now,” Spoelstra said. “Young players coming in have a better foundation and understanding of how to take care their bodies. You will see this next generation of players play for a long period of time.”
James added pull up jumpers, three point shooting, turn around jumpers. Since leaving Miami and the mileage on his body, regular season minutes, playoff minutes, he paces himself and his defense suffers.
“Lebron was in the forefront of that kind of education. And investing a lot of time and money and resources into what ever he had to stay on top of his game physically,” Spoelstra said. “We already know about his mind, he was committed to doing what he needed to do.”
James is currently the Lakers best passer and best scorer.
Back to Abdul-Jabbar, James and a guy by the name of Michael Jordan.
James had a head start, on Abdul-Jabbar who was 22 years old when he started in the NBA after four years at UCLA. Abdul-Jabbar played 20 seasons. Kareem showed down slide in his scoring. There is no spot on the resume where that has happened for James and the aging curve has not really hit him yet.
“Young players always wanted to know about his routine, when he would come in for shoot around or practice? How long he would stay afterwards? I always mention to young players coming in about building the right professional habits, LeBron was dialed into everything,” Spoelstra said. “Always one of the first in the building, never late for a meeting or the team plane. It was an almost an ocd that he had to be early to go through his mental preparation. His locker was pristine. Does it matter? We think it does.”
Since he turned 38 up to game he broke Abdul-Jabbar’s, he is averaging nearly 34 points, more than 9 rebounds and nearly 8 assists and shooting 52 percent from the field. This is not Jordan with the Washington Wizards or Abdul-Jabbar’s, last year with the Lakers. It is surreal for his 20th season; we are all witnesses to something no one else is doing right now. There are things in this era that have contribute to the benefits of him scoring this well but again 38 years old playing lights out.
“We obsess about keeping your workspace clean. And it should not look like a garbage. Or have shoes all over the place, clothes, all the gifts players accumulate over the course of a long season. Players would have their whole season in front of their locker. We don’t let players do that. We teach them how to take care of their space. That is one thing we never had to discuss with him,” Spoelstra said. “The first time I saw him in the locker room he was folding up his clothes and putting it perfectly in a pile. And he did not want anybody else’s stuff spilling over into his workspace. How you do anything is how you do everything, he is a perfect example of that.”
James has given credit to the Miami Heat workout program as his way of going to college and applying his workout routine.
“He constantly works at his craft. He is going to continue to develop new skills to put in his tool kit. He does not get bored with that process. He is a fan of the game, when he sees a player work on something or do something in the game, he would want to try that,” Spoelstra said. “He would see something, work on it for a day, then try it in a game and it would look like he worked on that for a couple of years. That’s how quickly he can assimilate and apply some kind if skill set.”
Quality is better over quantity however the longevity of James’ career over Jordan’s quality of career is something that needs to be discussed.
“He never gets bored with that. With us (Miami Heat) it was developing a post game where we can run offense through him. At the time it was more a 17-18 foot shot where you can bank on it.” Spoelstra said. “Every time teams would try to go under on pick and pick and rolls, we would end up winning game seven with two of those jump shots going down the stretch.”
It is fair argument that James can win.
“I have multiple thoughts, I think of the day to day of how we get better throughout the course of the season, how we get better from game to game, how much longer I will play the game, I think about I don’t want to finish my career playing at this level from a team aspect. I want to still be able to compete for championships,” James said. “I know what I can still bring to any ball club with the right pieces. I think about my son graduating high school soon and going off to college and I’m still playing, my youngest son will be a junior next year and how much time I will miss, through the course of the day, to weeks, to the months, I think about everything. Think about how much of the world I will see after done playing the game. At the end of the day I keep the main thing the main thing.”
James appears to be in passing his prime. Lakers have not put much around him. Look at the Golden State Warriors surrounding Stephen Curry. Kevin Durant with the Phoenix Suns and Giannis Antetokounmpo with the Milwaukee Bucks. The miss management will may comeback to haunt the Lakers. Hard to remember a roster that was mismanaged like this with two superstars on it. And when a roster move is made, it becomes laughable.
“When it is time for us to work, I lock in, when I have an opportunity with a day off, still kind of locked in but I do give myself an opportunity to decompress a bit by watching other teams, watching shows, spending time with my family, lot of thoughts it been a good ride so far,” James added.
Lebron is aiming at 40,000 points easily possibly ending with 43,000 for his career assuming he plays three more seasons. When he has played more than 50 games he never had fewer than 1500 points.
“I don’t have a number, I know as long my mind stays in it, I can play at this level for many, it is up to my mind, my body is going to be okay, if my mind is into it,” James said. “I will make sure my body is taken care of and continue to put in the work. I am winner and I want to win.”
Lebron went to eight straight NBA Finals (2011-2018). He made the first four trips with the Miami Heat (2011-2014) and the last four with the Cleveland Cavaliers (2015-2018).
“I want give myself a chance to win and still compete for championships. That has always been my passion, my goal since I entered the league as an 18-year-old kid out of Akron, Ohio I know it takes steps to get there. Once you get there and you know how to get there playing basketball at this level just to be playing basketball is not in my DNA anymore. We will see what happens how fresh my mind stays over the next couple of years.”
At the time he appeared to be cyborg. But at the age of 38 there are not comparable non-human words to describe James. Just sit back and remain a witness to greatness.