LeBron James hugging Kareem Abdul-Jabbar after breaking his all-time scoring record.

PHOTO: New York Times

Former National Basketball Association (NBA) star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar holds 6 NBA championship titles, 6 NBA Most Valuable Player titles and 15 All-NBA selections, from his 21 seasons playing for the Los Angeles Lakers and the Milwaukee Bucks. Although Kareem was most well known for his NBA scoring record which stood for nearly 39 years before it was broken by current NBA star LeBron James on Feb. 7, 2023.

In April of 1984, Kareem beat former NBA star Wilt Chamberlain’s scoring record of 31,419 with his signature sky hook shot. Chamberlain still holds the record for most points in one NBA game, in which he scored 100 points. Kareem ended his 20-year NBA run in 1989 and he scored a total of 38,387 career points. 

Kareem’s scoring record remained for nearly 39 years and nobody ever thought it would be broken. Former NBA champion Earvin “Magic” Johnson said, “I never thought that Kareem’s scoring record would be broken by anybody. I still remember when my Showtime teammate, the legendary Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, broke the record. It was an honor to be the guy to pass it to him and cement his legacy!”. Many NBA stars believed that Kareem’s record would last forever. LeBron said “I think it’s one of the greatest records in sports in general. I think it’s up there with the home run record in baseball. It’s one of those records that you just don’t ever see or think that would be broken.”

Lebron James, who calls himself “just a kid from Akron”, was labeled as the “chosen one” by Sports Illustrated at the age of seventeen. LeBron had a lot of hype around him when he was only in high school, at Saint Vincent-Saint Mary’s, winning numerous accolades, including Mr. Basketball USA and Gatorade National Athlete of the Year. A lot of pressure was placed on him when he was drafted first in 2003 to the Cleveland Cavaliers, straight out of high school. LeBron did not disappoint, he averaged 20.9 points a game in his rookie season and was named NBA Rookie of the Year. LeBron quickly became a superstar and won many accolades. He was able to win his first of two gold Olympic medals in 2008. 

 A former teammate of LeBron, Shaquille O’Neal said “I know what he’s doing, Championships are great, but he’s trying to pass Kareem up.” Shaq was right, because on Feb. 7, 2023, although the Los Angeles Lakers lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder in a close game, LeBron made a historic 14-foot fadeaway jumper that made LeBron James beat the scoring records with 38,390 points. LeBron also got to break this record with Kareem in attendance and he had an incredible night scoring 36 points. O’Neal said “He’s got four rings and he becomes the highest scorer in the NBA history. He’s the best ever. Ain’t nothing you can say.” Now there is an even stronger argument for LeBron being the greatest basketball player of all time.

When LeBron broke this long-lasting record, the game halted for about ten minutes so he would be able to celebrate such a momentous event and embrace his wife, Savannah James, and kids, Bronny, Bryce and Zhuri James. LeBron was brought to tears after doing what seemed to be impossible. LeBron reflected on the moments by saying  “Tonight, I actually felt like I was sitting on top of the arena when that shot went in, and the roar from the crowd. I’m not sure if I would be able to feel that feeling again unless it’s a game-winning Finals shot.”

Ceremonially, Kareem passed the game ball to LeBron, as a way of passing on the torch. Many people thought Kareem would be very upset after his record was broken, but actually, he was happy at how much his beautiful sport, basketball, has progressed since he has played. Before LeBron broke Kareem’s record, Kareem said “I’m excited to see it happen. I don’t see records as personal accomplishments, but more as human achievements. If one person can do something that’s never been done, that means we all have a shot at doing it. It’s a source of hope and inspiration. Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile back in 1954. Since then, not only have 1,400 runners beaten that time, but the new record is 17 seconds less. We all win when a record is broken and if LeBron breaks mine, I will be right there to cheer him on.” True to his word, Kareem was there to support James in beating his record.

Many people spoke about how proud they were of LeBron after this incredible accomplishment. President Joe Biden 39posted a video on his social media 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.” You know how significant of a record it is when the President posts about it on his Instagram.

LeBron got so many congratulatory messages on social media from other basketball stars and from other celebrities. Current Golden State Warriors point guard, Stephen Curry, said “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.” After the game, Kareem gave a kind shoutout to LeBron on a TNT interview, saying “LeBron’s career is one of someone who planned to dominate this game, and it’s gone for almost 20 years now. You have to give him credit for just the way he played and for the way he’s lasted and dominated.”

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