Lakers' LeBron James becomes NBA's all-time leading scorer


He long ago was anointed "The Chosen One." He went on to become "The King." He is now the NBA's all-time leading scorer.

LeBron James scored one of the most historic baskets in league history on Tuesday, breaking the hallowed record of 38,387 career points long held by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was sitting courtside.

James entered the game needing 36 points to set the mark and reached it on a step-back fadeaway with 10.9 seconds remaining in the third quarter of the Los Angeles Lakers matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder at Arena.

The game was stopped for a brief ceremony as James was met at center court by NBA commissioner Adam Silver and Abdul-Jabbar, who presented him with the game ball.  

"I just want to say thank you to the Laker faithful, you guys are one of a kind," James said. "To be able to be in the presence of such a legend and great as Kareem, it means so much to me. It's very humbling. Please give a standing ovation to the captain, please."

James then thanked members of his family who were in attendance.

"Everybody that's ever been a part of this run with me the last 20-plus years, I just want to say I thank you so much because I wouldn't be me without y'all," he said. "All y'all help, all y'all passion, all y'all sacrifices helped me get to this point.

"To the NBA, to Adam Silver, to the late great David Stern, I thank you guys so much for allowing me to be part of something I always dreamed about. I would never, ever in a million years dreamt this even better than what it is tonight."

James took the court wearing the classic yellow Lakers jersey, pink sneakers and, in a nod to his younger days, a white headband. 

"Here we go," James said pregame. "Vintage. Headband game." 

James was held scoreless over the game's first five minutes before knocking down a step-back three for his first points of the night. He went on to score eight straight points for the Lakers, shooting 3-for-6 over nine minutes in the first quarter. 

James converted back-to-back three-point plays early in the second to bring his total to 14. 

He later hit another three and finished the first half with 20 points, the second-most points he has scored in a half this season.

James pulled within single digits of setting the record after hitting consecutive threes in the third. He scored 16 points in the third to make history and finished with 38 points on 13-for-20 shooting in the Lakers' 133-130 loss to the Thunder.

James has garnered many accolades during a career in which he was drafted first overall by his hometown Cavaliers, took his talents to Miami, returned home to win Cleveland a championship and went west for a potential Hollywood ending. Setting the scoring record – an achievement that requires longevity, consistency and availability – might be his greatest.

It was on Oct. 29, 2003, that James, an 18-year-old rookie, hit a 16-foot jumper off a feed from Ricky Davis against the Sacramento Kings for the first points of his NBA career. Between that bucket and the nearly 40,000 points James has scored since, he won Rookie of the Year, four NBA championships, four MVPs, four Finals MVPs, three All-Star Game MVPs and two Olympic gold medals.      

James averaged 20.9 points per game as a rookie and has topped 25 points per every season since, including more than 30 points per game three times. He has scored 10-plus points in every game he has played in since Jan. 5, 2007, setting an NBA record of 1,139 consecutive games and counting (having broken Michael Jordan’s record of 867 straight double-digit games in 2018). 

James scored 23,119 points over two stints and 11 seasons with the Cavaliers. He totaled 7,919 points in four seasons with the Heat. He has now scored 7,350 points and counting in five seasons with the Lakers.  

He entered Tuesday’s game averaging 30.0 points per game in his 20th NBA season, needing 36 points against the Thunder to set the mark in what was his 1,410th career game. 

James scored 25 points during his debut in 2003, the most of any player in his first NBA game after joining the league straight from high school. He averaged 20.9 points per game as a rookie, becoming the youngest player to reach 1,000 career points. 

It was the start of a trend for each of the NBA’s round-number scoring milestones. In 2006, a 21-year-old James topped Kobe Bryant as the youngest ever to 5,000 career points. In 2008, the youngest to 10,000. And so on, and so on, until he becomes the first player to reach 40,000 points, which barring injury, will happen next season.

In 2013, James became the fourth player in NBA history to reach 20,000 career points before turning 30 (joining Bryant, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain). Five years later, he joined Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Bryant, Jordan, Chamberlain and Dirk Nowitzki as the only players to reach 30,000 career points.

He passed Chamberlain in 2018, Jordan in 2019, Bryant in 2020, Malone in 2022 and Abdul-Jabbar on Tuesday

Abdul-Jabbar broke the record in 1984, topping the previous mark of 31,420 points held by Chamberlain. Abdul-Jabbar retired in 1989 having averaged 24.6 points per over 1,560 games during his 20-year career.

The number 38,387 might not hold the same reverence as Hank Aaron's since-broken record of 755 career home runs or Wayne Gretzky's soon-to-be-broken record of 894 career goals. Nor will LeBron's final total. The title, however, does.    

He long ago entered the NBA under a spotlight that demanded greatness. He'll one day leave it as the NBA's all-time leading scorer. 

Contact Us