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LeBron James breaks NBA's all-time scoring record

LeBron James is now the National Basketball Association's all-time leading scorer, breaking a record that has stood for nearly four decades. 

Oklahoma City Thunder v Los Angeles Lakers
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 07: LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts after scoring to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to become the NBA's all-time leading scorer, surpassing Abdul-Jabbar's career total of 38,387 points against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Arena on February 07, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.  Getty Images

With 38,352 points heading into Tuesday's matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder, James needed just 36 points to become the league's most prolific scorer. Thus far this season, the 38-year-old is averaging 30 points a game, good enough for the third-best mark of his 20-year career. 

Prior to the game, James had only been outscored by Hall of Fame big man Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a former Laker who had previously been the NBA's all-time scorer since April 5, 1984. He played for five additional seasons after breaking the record, which he had taken from Wilt Chamberlain.

James has currently played 150 less games than Abdul-Jabbar and attempted 460 less field goals. 

Matthew Rodriguez/KCAL-News

His first field goal of the game came with 7:03 left in the first quarter, but only after missing his first three shots. He tallied eight points in the first, adding 12 more in the second quarter to leave him just 16 points away from the record with a half to play.

After making a pair of free throws, James nailed back-to-back three-pointers to cut the record to single-digits early in the second half. 

A few minutes later and history was made. 

James broke the record with 10.9 seconds left in the third quarter, using a 21-foot step-back jumper over the OKC defender from just outside of the key to solidify his spot in NBA history. 

He was met on the court by his mother, wife and children before the crowd was shown a special presentation honoring his historic career.

Abdul-Jabbar and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver also joined James on the floor, where he was given the game's basketball to commemorate the occasion. 

He broke the record in front of a raucous Arena crowd, treating Lakers fans aplenty to yet another historic moment. 

"Thank you to the Laker faithful, you guys are one of a kind," James said while speaking to the crowd. "To be able to be in the presence of such a legend as great as Kareem — it means so much to me, it's very humbling. Please give a standing ovation to the captain."

"Everybody that's ever been a part of this ride with me the last 20 years, I just want to say thank you so much because I wouldn't be me without y'all," he added, thanking his wife, children, mother, teammates and friends. 

His 38,388 points are now the most among all NBA players since the league's inception in 1946.

Even with the record-breaking performance, the Lakers fell to the Thunder, 133-130. James finished the night with 38 points, seven rebounds and three assists. 

While his legacy as one of the game's all-time greats is already cemented, the accomplishment is just another in a storied career from the Akron, Ohio native. On top of four NBA Championships (one with the Lakers in 2020), four MVP Awards and 13 All-NBA First Team selections, James and Abdul-Jabbar also sit atop another leaderboard — tied at 19 apiece for All-Star Game selections.

James is one of six Lakers players to rank among the league's best scorers, including Abdul-Jabbar (No. 2), Karl Malone (No. 3), Kobe Bryant (No 4), Wilt Chamberlain (No. 7) and Shaquille O'Neal (No. 8).

Along with being the highest scorer in league history, James currently sits amongst the top 10 all-time in:

  • games played (No. 10 with 1409), 
  • assists (No. 4 with 10,351), 
  • steals (No. 9 with 2,176), 
  • defensive rebounds (No. 10 with 8,924),
  • field goals made (No. 2 with 14,040), 
  • three-pointers made (No. 9 with 2,233),
  • free throws made (No. 4 with 8,039).

A massive gap stands between James and other active players in today's game, with the next closest player being Kevin Durant — who has 26,684. 

Matthew Rodriguez | KCAL News

James' first basket came all the way back on Oct. 30, 2003, in a game where he set what was then a rookie record for most points scored in a debut with 25.

Since then, he's continued to wow the masses and live up to his many monikers, including "King James" and "The Chosen One."

He would remain with his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers for the first seven seasons of his career before heading to the Miami Heat, where he earned his first and second NBA Titles. At the end of the 2014 season, James returned home to the Cavs to help them earn the franchise's sole NBA Championship in 2016. 

After four full seasons in Cleveland, James joined the Purple and Gold in 2018. He became the first player in the history of the NBA to win a title with three different teams when the Lakers topped the Heat in the 2020 NBA Finals.

His impact far surpasses the legacy he's created on the basketball court, as James has consistently engaged in philanthropic efforts that now include the foundation of the I Promise School in Akron, a public school that includes a family resource center with services for parents and students alike, also providing housing to several families of enrolled students. 

James has always voiced his opinion on various social issues, including in 2020, when he was one of the league's loudest players when it came to calling for reform and putting an end to racial inequality in the U.S. in the wake of George Floyd's death. His activism has continued throughout the course of his career, using his massive social media following and popularity to voice concerns felt by many of the world's more oppressed groups. 

Cleveland Cavaliers v Washington Wizards
LeBron James during his rookie season with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003.  G Fiume / Getty Images

James became the first active athlete to surpass a net worth of $1 billion, due to several successful financial ventures that include ownership in both Liverpool F.C. in the Premier League and the Boston Red Sox, as well as the creation of an entertainment company. 

With what appears to be plenty of gas left in the tank, as he still sits amongst league leaders in nearly every statistical category for the 2022-23 season, LeBron James could continue to add thousands of points to what will soon be his record. 

The Lakers are scheduled to play again on Thursday when they host the Milwaukee Bucks, another of Abdul-Jabbar's former teams. 

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