Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Admits to a Strained Relationship with LeBron James: 'I Blame Myself'

The NBA legend adds, though, that "LeBron makes me love the game again," and he's "proud" James passed his NBA scoring record

LeBron James, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Photo: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times via Getty

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar revealed how he really feels about LeBron James breaking the NBA record he held for 38 years and where they stand today.

In an essay posted to his substack, Abdul-Jabbar, 75, penned his "complex thoughts and intense emotions" after James scored his 38,388th point to break the record on Tuesday.

The former NBA star began by applauding James, 38, for the "unbelievable drive, dedication, and talent" it takes to "survive in the NBA long enough to rack up that number of points." He explained that in comparison, the average NBA career "lasts only 4.5 years." James is currently in his twentieth season in the league.

The former NBA scoring title holder said that breaking the record is "not just about putting the ball through the hoop," but rather about "staying healthy and skilled enough to climb the steep mountain in ever-thinning oxygen over many years when most other players have tapped out."

Abdul-Jabbar also said he was able to break the record in 1984 by being a team player. "A record is nothing if you used other players' careers as stepping stones for self-aggrandizement," he wrote. He said he believes James shares his philosophy of team-first basketball. "For me, I strove to play at the highest level I could in order to be a good teammate."

Addressing his reaction to the new record, Abdul-Jabbar said he "had to laugh" at all of the people who speculated how he would feel once James finally broke the record. "I'd already written several times stating exactly how I felt so there really wasn't much to speculate about."

LeBron James and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

Abdul-Jabbar compared his situation with James to winning the lottery. "It's as if I won a billion dollars in a lottery and 39 years later someone won two billion dollars. How would I feel? Grateful that I won and happy that the next person also won. His winning in no way affects my winning," he wrote.

The NBA legend then went on to address comments made by Magic Johnson, alleging that Abdul-Jabbar "thought he was going to have [the record] forever."

"Double ouch," wrote Abdul-Jabbar, who clarified that he has "love" for Johnson, 63, "after forty years of friendship," but that "in this case, he was very, very wrong." Abdul-Jabbar continued: "I don't blame him for thinking that I might be bothered because he knows how competitive I used to be. And, if someone had broken my record within ten years of me setting it, he would probably be right."

Subsequently, Abdul-Jabbar explained, "But that ain't me today. I'm 75. The only time I ever think of the record is when someone brings it up." Instead, the former NBA star said he's "thrilled that LeBron broke the record" because anytime "a sports record is broken" is a "time for celebration."

"It means someone has pushed the boundaries of what we thought was possible to a whole new level," Abdul-Jabbar wrote. "And when one person climbs higher than the last person, we all feel like we are capable of being more."

James and Abdul-Jabbar "don't have a relationship," according to both athletes. "He's right — and for that I blame myself," Abdul-Jabbar wrote. He believes their relationship never developed because of his lack of effort in reaching out to James, and admitted he has "never been a chummy, reaching-out kind of guy."

"I'm quiet, shy, and am such a devoted homebody that you'd think I have agoraphobia," Abdul-Jabbar wrote.

RELATED VIDEO: LeBron James' Son Bryce, 15, Receives First College Basketball Scholarship Offer: 'Blessed'

Moreover, Abdul-Jabbar ultimately attributes his age difference with James to being the "main reason" the two "never formed a bond" over the years. "When [James] started to make a name for himself, I was already pretty removed from the NBA world," he explained.

"That disconnect is on me," he admitted. "I knew the pressures he was under and maybe I could have helped ease them a bit. But I saw that LeBron had a friend and mentor in Kobe Bryant and I was just an empty jersey in the rafters. I couldn't imagine why he'd want to hang with someone twice his age. How many do?"

To close, Abdul-Jabbar said the "bottom line about" him and James is that "LeBron makes me love the game again," he wrote. "And he makes me proud to be part of an ever-widening group of athletes who actively care about their community."

Related Articles