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LeBron James breaks NBA's all-time scoring record, surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

LeBron James has just surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the most regular season points scored in NBA history.  

In front of cheering fans at L.A.'s Arena, the Los Angeles Lakers star secured his place in the record books during the third quarter of Tuesday's game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. James set the record with a fadeaway jumper with 10.9 seconds left in the third quarter.

James outstretched his arms, threw both hands in the air, then smiled. Abdul-Jabbar rose from his seat and clapped. The game was stopped as some members of James' family, including his mother, wife and children, took the floor for a ceremony recognizing the moment. 

Oklahoma City Thunder v Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts after scoring to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to become the NBA's all-time leading scorer at Arena on Feb. 7, 2023, in Los Angeles. Getty Images

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Abdul-Jabbar came out to mid-court to honor a clearly emotional James.  

"LeBron, you are the NBA's all-time scoring leader, congratulations," Silver said.

James then took the microphone to say "thank you to the Laker faithful. You are one of a kind."

He then asked the crowd to give a standing ovation to Abdul-Jabbar.

"To be able to be in the presence of such a legend as great as Kareem, it's very humbling," James said. "Please give a standing ovation to the Captain, please."

Oklahoma City Thunder v Los Angeles Lakers
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar stands on court with LeBron James after James passed Abdul-Jabbar to become the NBA's all-time leading scorer at Arena on Feb. 7, 2023, in Los Angeles. Getty Images

James' record-breaking night was bittersweet, with the Lakers falling to the Thunder 133-130. James finished the game with 38 points, his career regular-season total now at 38,390 points. 

James, at age 38, is now in sole possession of the coveted record —long considered one of the NBA's unattainable— leaving Lakers icon Abdul-Jabbar and Utah Jazz legend Karl Malone in second and third, respectively, on the all-time scoring list. Abdul-Jabbar became the league's leading scorer in 1984, and his 38,387 career points had stood as the record since 1989.

NBA Basketball: Lakers vs Thunder LeBron James
LeBron James attempts a shot against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Arena on Feb. 7, 2023, in Los Angeles.  Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

James, an Akron, Ohio native, scored his first NBA points on October 29, 2003, when he made a jump shot against the Sacramento Kings as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team that drafted him. Since then, he has averaged 27 points per game throughout his 20 seasons in the NBA, according to Basketball Reference, despite not labeling himself as a prototypical scorer. 

Last month, he became the only player other than Abdul-Jabbar to score over 38,000 points. However, James still trails Abdul-Jabbar, who, rather surprisingly, had only one three-pointer in his career. 

LeBron James' First NBA Game by Sacramento Kings on YouTube

President Biden shared a video message congratulating James on Wednesday afternoon. 

"With your whole heart and soul you broke a hallowed record," Mr. Biden said. "You elevated the game and more than that, like Kareem and Bill Russell and others who came before you, you challenged and inspired the nation to do better, be better and live up to our full promise. Keep it going, man. Keep the faith, and congratulations." 

In an interview with CBS News, Memphis Grizzlies forward Danny Green, a former teammate of James, called the 6-foot-9 James a "unicorn" who can beat you in many ways offensively. 

"He's like a freight train coming at you," he said ahead of James' historic moment. "And knows how to use his body and coordinate. It's damn near impossible to guard, especially when he jumps 40 inches in the air." 

Last week, James jumped to fourth on the all-time assists leaders list. Green said his passing abilities make it difficult to contain him on the court. 

"He's gonna burn you in many different ways other than scoring because he's capable of doing that," Green added. "I think it makes it easier for him to score and harder to guard."

Ticket prices to see James had soared to more than $69,000 for Tuesday's game against the Thunder, and a pair of tickets surpassed $106,000 for Thursday's game against the Milwaukee Bucks, according to VividSeats.  

Green told CBS News he doesn't believe anyone else will break James' record — just like he didn't think anyone would beat Abdul-Jabbar's. 

"You have to see somebody else play 20 years again at a high level, which I don't think we'll see," he said. "With the contracts that we have, guys are gonna retire –they don't need to play 20 years anymore." 

In October, James reflected on the possibility of breaking the scoring record before the start of the season. 

"To sit here and to know that I'm on the verge of breaking probably the most sought-after record in the NBA, things that people said would probably never be done, I think it's just super humbling for myself," James said at Lakers Media Day.

Last year, Abdul-Jabbar told ESPN that if James were to break the record, he would be "very happy for him." 

"The game always improves when records like that are broken, so LeBron should enjoy his achievement," he said. "He's worked very hard to get this far. And for him, he'll get to wait and see who might be lucky enough to break his record, if that's gonna happen. It's always about passing it on to the next guy in line." 

James told ESPN in January that he would like to play until his eldest son, Bronny Jr., makes it to the league, which means the scoring record could be much higher when he hangs up his sneakers. Bronny Jr. would be eligible to be drafted in the 2024-2025 season under the current collective bargaining agreement, ESPN reported. 

Since entering the league in 2003, James has become one of the NBA's biggest stars, collecting four championship rings in the process. He has played with the Lakers, the Miami Heat and had two separate stints with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Whenever he retires, James will leave behind a Hall of Fame resume and be widely revered as one of the best players to ever step onto an NBA court.

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