Hailed as the ‘Chosen One’ while still in high school, LeBron James always appeared destined to become the National Basketball Association’s all-time leading scorer and claim a record he once believed would never be touched.
That seemingly inevitable moment arrived on Tuesday.
Almost 20 years after recording his first two points on October 29, 2003, James floated a fadeaway jumper late in the third quarter in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 133-130 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 38,387 and putting his name in the history books.
For almost four decades fellow Lakers great Abdul-Jabbar had owned the mark and watched as James climbed the scoring table. The 75-year-old was there in an electric Crypto.com arena to witness James reach the summit.
The Chosen One, now widely referred to as ‘King James,’ finished the night with 38 points, bringing his career total to 38,390. By the time he retires, he could turn the all-time mark into one of those records that will be stamped as untouchable.
Abdul-Jabbar and James are the only two men to eclipse 38,000 points and behind them just five players have rung up more than 30,000: Karl Malone (36,928), Kobe Bryant (33,643), Michael Jordan (32,292), Dirk Nowitzki (31,560) and Wilt Chamberlain (31,419).
James, 38, has shown no sign of slowing down in his 20th season, where he is averaging more than 30 points per game and made his 19th All-Star game.
How long James will continue to play is unknown, but according to reports he spends over $1 million a year on chefs, trainers, massage therapists and anything else needed to take care of his greatest asset: himself.
The scoring record adds new fuel to the debate over who is the greatest basketball player ever, James or Jordan.
The resumes of the two men are remarkably similar and statistically look more alike all the time.
James has won four NBA titles and counting, Jordan six.
Jordan took Finals most valuable player honours six times, James four.
James has four NBA MVP awards, Jordan five.
Both men have two Olympic gold medals.
“Me personally, I’m going to take myself against anybody that has ever played this game,” said James after setting the record. “I know what I brought to the table I know what I bring to the table every single night and what I can do out on this floor, so I always feel like I’m the best ever to play this game.”
As a 17-year-old junior at St. Vincent-St. Mary High in Akron, James found himself on the cover of Sports Illustrated in February 2002 – the headline shouted “The Chosen One” in bold capital letters, underlined in red.
The other story meriting prominent coverage on the front page of that issue was about the Salt Lake City Olympic Games.
James has earned more respect than love from fans, but is one of sport’s most fascinating figures, capable of pulling the spotlight away from the Super Bowl build-up and President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address.
Selected first overall in the 2003 draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers, James went from high school to NBA rookie of the year.
He played seven seasons in Cleveland before famously announcing in a television special promoted as “The Decision” that he would head to South Beach and the Miami Heat, where he won two of his four NBA titles.
The move made James public enemy number one in jilted Cleveland, but he mended the relationship in 2014 when he returned to the city and led the Cavaliers to the title.
In 2018 James moved again, this time to Los Angeles, where he won a fourth ring in 2020 – although he may not end his career in Lakers purple and gold.
“My last year will be played with my son,” James told The Athletic in an interview last February. “Wherever Bronny is at, that’s where I’ll be.”
While James’ greatness on the court is defined by statistics, he may well be remembered more for his work away from the arena.
He has used his fame and pulpit (57.2 million Twitter followers) it provides to speak out on racism, Black civil rights and police brutality.
His opinions carry weight, with Time listing him as one of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2017.
Despite never attending university, James has developed into a savvy businessman and billionaire with a portfolio that includes everything from part ownership in the English Premier League’s Liverpool soccer club to an Emmy-winning production company.
Like Jordan, who owns the Charlotte Hornets, James has been rumoured to be in pursuit of an expansion NBA franchise in Las Vegas.
Along with his social activism, James has poured money and time into a number of charitable causes, including the I Promise School in his hometown of Akron that his foundation helped open and which offers classes for “at-risk” students.
“With your whole heart and soul you broke a hell of a record,” Biden said in offering congratulations. “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.”