LeBron James Is About to Beat Kareem’s NBA All-Time Scoring Record

The Lakers’ King James will surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s mark, either Tuesday or Thursday, in Downtown L.A.

Calling the current Los Angeles Lakers season a disappointment would be a Shaquille O’Neal-seized understatement. The purple and gold carries a record of 25-29 and sits in 13th place in the 15-team Western Conference. They just missed a chance to trade for Kyrie Irving, the mercurial but gifted point guard who LeBron James desperately wanted the team to acquire. After the Dallas Mavericks out-maneuvered the Lakers to secure Irving from the Brooklyn Nets, James tweeted three passive-aggressive words to his 52.7 million followers: “Maybe It’s Me.”

And yet, any bit of rancor will evaporate this week as James claims the single most hallowed individual record in the NBA: He is about to break Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s mark for points scored in a career.

Abdul-Jabbar, in a stupendous 21-year run, including 14 seasons with the Lakers, scored 38,387 points. As of Monday, James has notched 38,352. It’s notable that Abdul-Jabbar played 1,560 games to James’ current 1,408 (though the three-point shot was not part of Abdul-Jabbar’s arsenal, as it is for James).

This is happening, and when James’ 36th point drops through the net it will be the biggest basketball moment in Los Angeles since Kobe Bryant scored 60 in his final game in 2016 (asterisk: the Lakers won the title in 2020, but that took place in the Orlando COVID “bubble,” with no fans in attendance). The only uncertainty is the specific day.

There’s a reasonable chance that the record falls Tuesday evening, when the Lakers host the Oklahoma City Thunder, who are hardly lock-down defenders. If not then, and if there is no injury or unforeseen event, it will surely occur Thursday night, when the Milwaukee Bucks visit Crypto.com Arena.

Scoring 36 isn’t easy, but James has done that eight times just since Christmas, most recently when he dropped 41 points against the Boston Celtics in an overtime loss on Jan. 28.

The secondary ticket market seems to think history will be made late in the week. According to a Monday afternoon search on ticket reseller Stubhub, the least expensive seat for Tuesday is $159 (including fees). It’s in the nosebleeds, section, 311. Get down to the 200 level and you’re paying a minimum of $242.

For Thursday’s game, the cheapest ticket, in top deck section 313, is a whopping $773. Drop to the 200s and you’re shelling out a rent-like minimum of $1,016. Pick center-court section 101 and the lowest price for a single seat is $4,376.

The price is high, but career scoring marks don’t fall often. The last time the record was broken, when Abdul-Jabbar surpassed Wilt Chamberlain’s mark, was on April 5, 1984, or nearly 40 years ago (Chamberlain now sits at seventh all time).

It’s momentous for James, who is in his 20th season and, with Michael Jordan, is considered one of the two greatest players ever.

James was a star even before he hit the pros. He appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 2002, under the banner headline “The Chosen One,” when he was a 17-year-old junior at Akron, Ohio’s St. Vincent-St. Mary High School. He would be drafted first overall by his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. The care he takes of his body is legendary. He has won four MVP awards and has been a first-team All-NBA selection 13 times. Next week, he’ll appear in his 19th All-Star Game

He won four NBA championships—two with the Miami Heat, and one each with the Cavaliers and Lakers. This season, at age 38, he is averaging 30 points a game, seventh highest in the league. Many observers expect him to hang around for at least another couple years so he can play with his son Bronny, now a high school senior who is eligible for the 2024 NBA draft (scouts differ on whether he has pro-caliber skills).

James joined the Lakers ahead of the 2018-19 season on a four-year, $153.3 million contract and linked an extension to start this season, though he has not had the kind of success he achieved at earlier stops in his career. Outside of the pandemic year championship, the team has not won a playoff series.

But his surrounding cast leaves a lot to be desired as well. Big man Anthony Davis is a monster, but always seems to get injured. Russell Westbrook, whom the team acquired last year in hopes that he would be a third engine, has under-performed and been a lousy fit with ball-dominant James. Lakers fans were hopeful that Westbrook and some far-off first-round draft picks would be the bait needed to get the Nets to give up Irving and put the Lakers in title contention.

That didn’t happen, and with the league’s Thursday trade deadline nearing, there is ample uncertainty about the Lakers’ fate. Hence James’ aforementioned Twitter activity.

James has been humble when asked about breaking the record. On the eve of the current season he told the Los Angeles Times, “It’s a huge thing,” adding, “I’ve never even like set a goal of doing it. It makes zero sense to me.”

That may the case, but it’s something James, and every basketball fan, have to put their arms around, and quickly. The record is about to fall, on a court in Downtown Los Angeles, and the world will be watching.

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