Los Angeles Lakers fans hoping to see some LeBron James history
LOS ANGELES – It looked like an act of homage.
Lakers fans wearing LeBron James jerseys posed for photos Tuesday in front of a statue of Lakers great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar outside Crypto.com Arena.
It was fitting considering James entered the Lakers’ game against the Oklahoma City Thunder needing just 36 points to break the NBA’s all-time scoring record of 38,387 points held by Abdul-Jabbar.
Eventually pleasantries among Lakers fans gave way to a spirited discussion centered on this question: Will James get a statue like the ones that in addition to Abdul-Jabbar have gone to Lakers greats Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Chick Hearn.
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“He deserves it,’’ said Mike Ballard, who was wearing a Lakers jersey with No. 33, the number Abdul-Jabbar wore. “You can’t take anything away from him because he’s only been here five years.’’
He's Here. pic.twitter.com/9jwhZGGtra
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) February 7, 2023
James led the Lakers to the NBA championship during the 2020 season shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, in a Lakers jersey, he’s set to break a scoring record some considered unbreakable.
Justin Pickett, who flew in from Columbus, Ohio, said he thinks the statue question is less clear.
“He needs to win at least one more title (with the Lakers),’’ Pickett said. “But he’ll get a statue in Cleveland.’’
James entered the arena in an all-black suit with a gold and black pin that read "Stay present." When he took the court for warm-ups, James sported a T-shirt that read "Built by Black History" along with his once-customary headband. His sons Bronny and Bryce looked on.
China, Australia and Argentina were represented among fans who arrived at Cypto.com Arena about two hours before tipoff.
One of three Chinese businessmen said he chose the English name James in tribute to LeBron.
Juan Yelin, his wife and two boys unfurled an Argentinian flag with handwritten lettering in black marker directed at LeBron.
“My grandfather brought me from Argentina to see you.’’
Yelin explained that the boys’ grandfather was too sick to travel.
Skyhook and silver screen
Not everybody was overly familiar with the Hall of Fame center and his famous skyhook. Dan Kosmala said he knew more about Abdul-Jabbar from the movies than from basketball.
“Wasn’t he in 'Airplane'?’’ Kosmala asked.
Well, yes. He also was courtside to watch on Tuesday as James pursued the hallowed record he's held for more than 30 years.
Stars are out
Among those in attendance were Jay-Z; Denzel Washington; Shannon Sharpe; John McEnroe, LL Cool J; Floyd Mayweather; Bad Bunny; Phil Knight; Jeanie Buss; Dwyane Wade; Magic Johnson; NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
Tuesday afternoon, game tickets could be found as inexpensive as $125 apiece. But two courtside seats – Jack Nicholson territory – were listed on Ticketmaster for $75,000 each.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Lakers' LeBron James going for history, and fans are ready