LeBron James has become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 39-year-old record.
Los Angeles Lakers star James, 38, hit 38 points in a 133-130 defeat by the Oklahoma City Thunder to surpass Abdul-Jabbar’s mark of 38,387.
Abdul-Jabbar initially broke the scoring record in April 1984, eight months before James was born.
“To be able to be in the presence of a legend and great as Kareem, it means so much to me,” said James.
James, who needed 36 points to break the record, did so with a fadeaway jumper at the end of the third quarter and he finished the match with a career total of 38,390.
An emotional James rose both arms in celebration while 75-year-old Abdul-Jabbar, who was at the match at the Lakers home court, stood and applauded.
There was a brief break in play for a ceremony to mark the achievement, with James taking a microphone to make a speech on court.
“Everybody that has ever been a part of this run with me the last 20-plus years, I want to say thank you so much because I wouldn’t be me without all you. You all helped. Your passion and sacrifices helped me to get to this point,” he said.
“And to the NBA to Adam Silver, to the late great David Stern, thank you very much for allowing me to be a part of something I always dreamed about. I would never in a million years dreamt this to be even better than what it is tonight.”
Abdul-Jabbar ceremoniously handed over the ball to James to recognise his new record in front of a cheering crowd that included tennis legend John McEnroe, music stars Jay-Z, LL Cool J and Bad Bunny, boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr and actor Denzel Washington.
“I thought it had every chance of being broken. It just had to have someone that the offense focused on continually,” said Abdul-Jabbar, who retired in 1989.
“LeBron’s career is one of someone who planned to dominate this game. You have to give him credit for just the way he played and for the way he’s lasted and dominated.”
Four-time NBA champion James is in his 20th season in the NBA, having been drafted first overall by hometown team the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003.
The forward joined the Miami Heat in 2010, winning two titles, before returning to lead Cleveland to the only NBA title in their history in 2016.
He has been with the Lakers since 2018 and helped them win the 2020 title, which was also the fourth time he has been named NBA finals MVP.
Two-time Olympic champion James has won four regular season MVP titles and appeared in the NBA Finals 10 times.
Abdul-Jabbar played in the NBA for 20 seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks and Lakers, during which he won six titles, six regular season MVP crowns and was named finals MVP twice.
Asked after the game whether he is the best NBA player of all time, James said: “I’ll let everybody else decide who that is or just talk about it, but it’s great barbershop talk.
“Me personally, I’m going to take myself against anybody who’s ever played this game. But everyone’s going to decide who their favourite is.”
|NBA’s all-time scoring list|
James holds the records as the youngest player to reach every significant points tally from 5,000 to 35,000.
He passed six-time NBA champion Michael Jordan into fourth overall in March 2019 and late Lakers great Kobe Bryant to move into third all-time in January 2020.
James then surpassed Karl Malone into second overall in March last year, a month after he beat Abdul-Jabbar’s record for the most combined regular season and play-off points. The NBA’s official all-time scoring list only takes into account regular season points.
James, a 19-time All-Star, scored 23,119 points in 849 games for the Cavaliers during 11 seasons across two spells.
He scored 7,919 points for the Heat in 294 games over four seasons and now has 7,314 points in 266 games over five seasons for the Lakers.
James is also in the top-10 all-time lists for assists, steals, defensive rebounds, field goals made and three-pointers made.