SAN FRANCISCO — No player in league history has scored more points while wearing an NBA uniform than LeBron James.
The Los Angeles Lakers star, who came into Saturday night needing 19 points to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the most combined regular-season and postseason points, made a 3-pointer less than five minutes into the second half against the Golden State Warriors, giving him 21 for the game and 44,152 points in regular-season and postseason play. Abdul-Jabbar finished his Hall of Fame career with 44,149 combined points (38,387 in the regular season, 5,762 in the playoffs).
James got it going early, tying Abdul-Jabbar on a 3 with 1:24 remaining in the second quarter. He finished the first half with 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting, helping L.A. keep pace with the Warriors.
His finish to the game marred the night, however. James shot 1-for-10 in the fourth quarter and missed the first of three free throws with 2.4 seconds left when he could have tied the game had he made all three. L.A. was unable to secure the win despite leading by six with 3:47 remaining. The Warriors won 117-115.
“It’s hard for me to speak on it now because I hate doing anything when it comes in a loss. And we had an opportunity to win a big game tonight,” James said.
He finished with 26 points on 9-for-27 shooting, including a 3-for-10 mark from 3. He was 5-for-9 from the free throw line, with 15 rebounds and eight assists.
“Been appreciative of the opportunity to play this game at the highest level,” James said. “I love the game of basketball. 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.”
Give it up for the new All-Time Leading Regular Season and Playoffs Scorer, LeBron James 👏 pic.twitter.com/zPlGGRhGXs
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) February 13, 2022
James said his teammates and members of the coaching staff acknowledged the accomplishment and friends and loved ones sent congratulatory texts to his phone, which he was thankful to receive.
“That’s pretty cool. It’s incredible,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said before the game. “Everything the guy has done throughout his career is just remarkable. It’s why I believe he’s the greatest ever to play.”
The Warriors backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson also marveled at the scoring mark.
“It’s wild to think about how many games he’s played, how long he’s been doing it. The longevity of it all is legendary,” Curry said. “To be in that position where you’ve played that many games, you’ve been in so many different playoff runs, won championships and done it year after year, there is no real end in sight. That’s a pretty special accomplishment. He’s probably got his eyes set on the ‘real’ scoring title. It’s crazy to think about.”
Added Thompson: “I don’t know how much longer he has, maybe it’s two years, maybe it’s three. But NBA fans should appreciate it while they’re watching such an amazing player.”
James started the day No. 3 on the all-time regular-season scoring list with 36,500 points and No. 1 on the all-time postseason scoring list with 7,631 points.
He is fewer than 500 points from passing Karl Malone for No. 2 on the regular-season scoring list and fewer than 2,000 points from Abdul-Jabbar for No. 1.
He passed Michael Jordan for No. 1 on the all-time playoff scoring list in 2017.
“I feel like I witnessed a lot of those postseason points,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr, whose teams faced off against James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in four consecutive NBA Finals from 2015 to 2018. “That’s a spectacular statistic, maybe not one that is going to be celebrated as if it were the regular-season record, but that’s incredible when you think about all the players who have played in this league, the talent. People like Michael Jordan, who played in a million playoff games. It speaks to LeBron’s brilliance but also his longevity.
“I think his most underrated quality is the way he’s been able to take care of his body and continue to play at such a high level for so long. He’s still at the top of his game, at the top of the league. I didn’t know that stat. That’s pretty remarkable.”
The feat comes amid an excellent scoring season for James. On Saturday he scored 25 points or more for his 22nd straight game, the longest such streak of his career. His 29.1 points per game would rank second in the league only behind Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid (29.3), however James has not played enough games yet this season to qualify for the scoring title. It is the fourth-highest scoring average of his 19-year career and the most he’s averaged since 2009-10, when he put up 29.7 points for the Cavs.
James’ scoring average this season is by far the most by any player in his 19th season or later. Kobe Bryant had set the record by averaging 22.3 points in 2014-15, when he was limited to 35 games because of injury in his 19th season.
“I think he’s just rewritten the rules on how players later in their career can evolve their game to stay playing at the highest level,” Vogel said of James. “So just another part of his story.”