LeBron James surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the highest scorer in NBA history as the Los Angeles Lakers fell to a 130-133 defeat to the Oklahoma Thunder on Tuesday night.
The 38-year-old scored 38 points in the contest to take his NBA total to 38,390, and Abdul-Jabbar was in attendance to congratulate the Lakers legend at the Crypto.com Arena.
Abdul-Jabbar – who scored 38,387 points during his illustrious career – held the record for nearly 39 years after surpassing Wilt Chamberlain in 1984, and James needed to score 36 points to break the record on Tuesday.
Towards the end of the third quarter – with the Lakers down 97-104 – James buried a fadeaway jumper before raising his arms aloft in celebration, and Abdul-Jabbar stood up to applaud his compatriot’s 38,388th point.
Play was paused as James celebrated on the court with his family, and 75-year-old Abdul-Jabbar ceremoniously handed a ball over to the Lakers forward before the Thunder ran out narrow winners.
Prior to the game restarting, an emotional James gave a short speech on the court, saying: “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.
“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 paid tribute to James in an interview with TNT Sports, claiming that the Lakers man possessed an “indefinable essence” of leadership.
“LeBron’s career is one of someone who planned to dominate this game. And it’s gone for almost 20 years now,” the 75-year-old said.
“You have to give him credit for just the way he played and for the way he’s lasted and dominated. He has that indefinable essence that they call leadership. I thought it had every chance of being broken. It just had to have someone that the offense focused on continually.”
United States President Joe Biden also congratulated James in a video message, saying: “LeBron, congratulations. With your whole heart and soul you broke a hell of a record. You elevated the game.
“More than that, like Kareem, Bill Russell and others who came before you, you challenged and inspired the nation to be better, do better and live up to our full promise.”
James has achieved his landmark points tally in 1,410 games – 150 fewer than Abdul-Jabbar took to post his previous record of 38,387 – but defeat left the Lakers 13th in the Western Conference.