LeBron James Passes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Become Highest-Scoring NBA Player of All Time

The 38-year-old Lakers star broke the record on Tuesday night in Los Angeles

LeBron James
LeBron James during the 2022 NBA season. Photo: John McCoy/Getty

LeBron James recorded his 38,388th point in the NBA on Tuesday, officially making him the leading scorer in NBA history.

The historic point that pushed James, 38, past the record's former holder Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, happened during the third quarter of the Lakers' game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

James was surrounded by friends, family, and fans at the Lakers' home arena, the Crypto.com Arena, for the big moment on Tuesday. As soon as he scored the record-breaking point, his sons Bronny and Bryce James joined their dad on the court, alongside James' wife Savannah and several of James' closest friends.

"LeBron you are the NBA's all-time scoring leader," said Adam Silver, the commissioner of the NBA. "Congratulations."

Abdul-Jabbar, who held the record for just shy of four decades, was on hand to pass the torch, or in this case, a basketball on. "It couldn't have been a better person to do it than LeBron. He earned it, he worked hard for it," Abdul-Jabbar said after the game.

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Abdul-Jabbar also noted that James was born the same year he broke the record. "It's kind of interesting that he was born the year that I set the record, so all of this is kinda serendipity."

Following the game, which the Lakers ended up losing 133-130, James told reporters he's not sure he'll ever be able to "feel that feeling again," referencing the moment his shot went in. "Tonight I actually felt like I was sitting on top of the arena tonight when that shot went in and the roar from the arena, from the crowd," James described.

"Everything just stopped and gave me an opportunity to embrace it and look around," James said of the moment the game stopped and everyone rose to their feet to take in the moment.

James recalled, "Seeing my family and seeing the fans and seeing my friends, it was pretty cool. I probably can count on my hands how many times I've cried in 20 years, either in happiness or defeat, that moment was one of them."

A number of stars came out to witness the historic moment in sports, including NBA great Dwyane Wade, who shared a video from the night on social media. "Legendary moment. Congratulations brother," wrote Wade, 41.

To honor the big moment, several celebrities pre-recorded video tributes talking about James' legendary career. "LeBron, what a legendary night in NBA history," Drake said in his message.

Rihanna said she was "so grateful to witness this moment in history," as James broke the record.

Earlier this season, James became just the second player to record more than 38,000 points along with Abdul-Jabbar, 75. At the time, he told reporters, "Been appreciative of the opportunity to play this game at the highest level."

"I love the game of basketball," James continued. "I love being a part of the NBA and being able to inspire so many different sets of generations. I guess it's a pretty big deal."

LeBron James
Lauren Bacho/NBAE via Getty

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Before James broke the record, Abdul-Jabbar told NBA reporter Marc Stein that he was "excited to see it happen."

"I don't see records as personal accomplishments, but more as human achievements," added Abdul-Jabbar. "If one person can do something that's never been done, that means we all have a shot at doing it."

"It's a source of hope and inspiration. Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile back in 1954. Since then, not only have 1,400 runners beaten that time, but the new record is 17 seconds less. We all win when a record is broken, and if LeBron breaks mine, I will be right there to cheer him on," he continued.

James is no stranger to breaking records. Following the Lakers' game against the Phoenix Suns in March of last year, he became the first player in the history of the NBA to reach 10,000 points in rebounds and assists.

"To now sit alone at a statistical category in this league that I've really modeled my game after — being able to score, rebound and assist," James said after the game, per ESPN. "I sit alone at a stat is pretty like — I'd say 'cool,' but it doesn't quite make sense to me."

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