With 5:20 left in the first half of the Los Angeles Lakers vs Washington Wizards game, All-Star forward LeBron James took a pass from forward Stanley Johnson to commit a driving layup. That one shot brought over 20,000 spectators and fans to their feet for a standing ovation. With that shot, James surpassed NBA great Karl Malone to be the second all-time leading scorer in the NBA on Saturday.
“Just to be part of this league the many years I’ve been a part of it and being linked to some of the greatest who’ve ever played this game and guys I’ve ever watched or studied or read about or aspired to be like … I’m just always lost for words for it,” James said. “It’s an honor for myself, for my hometown, for my family and friends to be able to live these moments throughout this journey. And that’s exactly who I do it for.”
Malone played in the NBA for 19 years, mostly for the Utah Jazz and his last season with the Lakers. He ultimately scored 36,928 points. James only needed 20 points to hit Malone’s mark coming into the Wizards’ game; James scored 38 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists during the match-up.
While this has been a tough season for the Lakers, James had been putting on exciting performances in recent games. He dropped 56 points on the Golden State Warriors on March 5, helping the Lakers secure a 124-116 victory. James also scored 50 points while the Lakers defeated the Wizards 122-109 on March 11.
During their 140-111 loss to the Phoenix Suns on March 13, James became the first player in NBA history to reach 10,000 points, rebounds, and assists respectively. James acknowledged that he saw similarities between him and Malone.
“Guys that just took care of their bodies for the majority of their career and always wanted to be available to their teammates,” James said. “The most important leadership [trait] for you is to try to be available as much as possible on the floor. I think myself and [Malone], we always just tried to be in uniform and make plays and stay in condition and try to stay healthy, stay injury-free as much as you can and also be productive on the floor.”
It has been two years since James passed the scoring record of the late Lakers legend Kobe Bryant who accumulated 33,643 points during his 20-year career. Now, James has one more iconic Lakers player to surpass to become all-time leading scorer.
Showtime Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar hung his hat on his effective sky-hook shot during his career, ultimately leading him to score 38,387 points. Abdul-Jabbar has been the all-time leading scorer of the league for 33 years. While he draws near the mark, James prefers to focus on the needs of the team.
“I will not allow myself to think about it,” James said. “I’ve always just played the game the way I’ve been playing it over the years, and these things have just happened organically by just going out and just playing the game the right way. Trying to win every game, playing the right way, playing for your teammates and things of that nature.”