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Long after he buried a historic 14-foot fadeaway jumper that put him alone atop the NBA’s all-time scoring list and celebrated by raising his arms high toward the ceiling of Crypto.com Arena, LeBron James got to relive his immortal moment through his son’s eyes.
As the Los Angeles Lakers star iced his joints late Tuesday night, Bronny James walked over and showed his father a video he shot of the moment James broke Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s career scoring record.
“Oh, that’s tough!” James told Bronny as he watched the record-breaking basket on his son’s phone. “You got that saved? Send that to me.”
It was a fadeaway jumper — not a skyhook ode to Abdul-Jabbar or one of his signature power dunks — with 10.9 seconds left in the third quarter of a 133-130 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder that sent James to the top of a mountain that Abdul-Jabbar stood on for more than 38 years at 38,387 career points.
James entered the match with 38,352 points, needing 36 to overtake Abdul-Jabbar. He concluded the night with 38 points on 13-of-20 shooting (4-of-6 from 3) to go along with 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals.
As the game came to a halt to celebrate a record that so many thought would never be reached, an emotional James broke down in tears.
“I write ‘The Man In The Arena’ on my shoe every single night from Theodore Roosevelt,” James said afterward. “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.
“Everything just stopped. It gave me an opportunity to embrace it and look around and seeing my family, the fans, my friends. It was pretty cool. I probably can count on my hands how many times I have cried in 20 years, either in happiness or in defeat. So that moment was one of them when I kind of teared up a little bit. It was ‘I can’t believe what’s going on’ tears.”
Photographers quickly circled James on the court, as chants of “MVP” rained down from the crowd and highlights of his storied 20-year career played on the videoboard.
The game was stopped for about 10 minutes while James hugged his family, including his wife, mother and three children, and participated in a brief ceremony with NBA commissioner Adam Silver and Abdul-Jabbar, who watched the game from a baseline seat near the Lakers bench.
“A record that has stood for nearly 40 years,” Silver said. “Many people thought it would never be broken. LeBron, you are the NBA’s all-time scoring leader. Congratulations.”
Abdul-Jabbar held the game ball aloft then handed it to James, the ceremonial passing of the torch. They posed for photos with Silver then with each other.
“I just want to say thank you to the Laker faithful. You guys are one of a kind,” James told the fans who turned out in droves for the chance to see a once-in-a-generation achievement. “To be able to be in the presence of such a legend and great as Kareem, it’s very humbling. Please give a standing ovation to The Captain, please.”
James then thanked his family and those who have supported him, including Silver and late NBA commissioner David Stern.
“I thank you guys so much for allowing me to be a part of something I’ve always dreamed about,” James said.
James might insist he’s not a scorer, but the Lakers star punched a major hole in his own argument.
Considering all that he has already accomplished, with four championships at the top, adding the career scoring record to his résumé is another accolade in the debate over who is the greatest basketball player of all time, which many have pegged between James and Michael Jordan.
Abdul-Jabbar’s record had stood since April 5, 1984. James, 38, was born about nine months later.