It’s Official: LeBron James Is the NBA’s All-Time Scoring Leader

Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Reuters/Wikimedia Commons
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Reuters/Wikimedia Commons

The seemingly ageless LeBron James made NBA history Tuesday night, dazzling in a 38-point performance to edge past fellow Laker legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and become the NBA’s all-time scoring leader.

James, 38, now sits at 38,388 career regular-season points scored—with nearly half a season left to play in 2023.

Tuesday’s performance sent a sold-out arena into hysterics—where Lakers die-hards who wanted a close-up view of history shelled out at least $1,000 per ticket, even in the venue’s cheapest lower level seats, CBS News reported, citing reseller Vivid Seats.

James needed at least 36 points to break Abdul-Jabbar’s record—a feat he’d managed just nine times in 43 games this season entering Tuesday night’s tilt with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

He made the record-breaking basket on a fade-away from the right elbow with just 10 seconds to play in the game’s third quarter, adding another basket in the fourth quarter for good measure. But despite James’ standout performance, the Lakers fell to the Thunder 133-130.

At an impromptu mid-game ceremony to honor the newly minted record holder, a teary-eyed and stunned James thanked his family, friends and Abdul Jabbar before concluding with some seemingly unintended profanity: “Fuck, man. Thank you guys.”

He said on ESPN this week that the prospect of passing Abdul-Jabbar was “mind-boggling,” adding that taking the record was so far-fetched that he never even considered it as a career goal when he debuted on Oct. 30, 2003, nearly 20 years ago.

“I’ve set out goals throughout my whole career,” James said. “I wanted to be Rookie of the Year, I wanted to be MVP in this league, I wanted to win championships, be an All-Star. I wanted to lead the league in assists. I wanted to make the All-Defensive team, be Defensive Player of the Year.”

“I never said I wanted to lead the league in scoring, or for sure never said I wanted to be the all-time leader in scoring… To sit here and actually be on the brink of it happening, it’s pretty crazy.”

Abdul-Jabbar, who terrorized the NBA throughout the ’70s and ’80s with a lethal sky hook, was in attendance on Tuesday. He said last year that he’s excited to see James overtake his record.

“I’m excited to see it happen. I don’t see records as personal accomplishments, but more as human achievements,” Adbul-Jabbar said. “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.”

With James still averaging more than 30 points per game—and given past quips that he plans to play until he’s 45 à la Tom Brady—Tuesday is likely the last time in a long time we see a new points record holder be crowned.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

Get the Daily Beast's biggest scoops and scandals delivered right to your inbox. Sign up now.

Stay informed and gain unlimited access to the Daily Beast's unmatched reporting. Subscribe now.