LeBron James moved one step closer to the ultimate goal of becoming the NBA’s all-time leading scorer on Saturday night when he passed Karl Malone for second on the list. James posted point number 36,929 of his career in a 127-119 loss to the Wizards in Washington. He scored the basket on a layup in the second quarter, then received a standing ovation from fans in attendance.
James ended the game with 38 points, which put his career total at 36,947, just 1,440 behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for first all-time. James probably won’t admit this, but it feels like his goal for some time now has been to catch Kareem and become the league’s all-time scoring king. I wouldn’t have faulted James, like some, if he were to admit to chasing Abdul-Jabbar’s record all this time.
This was a remarkable moment for James, his family, friends, and all his teammates, current and past. They’ve all helped him get to this point in different ways, but this moment could’ve been even better had this game been in Cleveland against the Cavs. Hopefully, the Lakers will play the Cavs late enough in the season next year for James to pass Kareem in the city where his NBA journey began. That may have been too much like a scripted Hollywood ending, but it would make the moment that much better.
It would have also been great if Saturday night had been in Los Angeles in front of his current home crowd. But let’s be honest, most Lakers fans still don’t claim LeBron as a “true” Laker. He wasn’t homegrown, so there will always be some animus involved in that relationship. And I honestly believe much of it stems from Lakers fans not liking that Kobe Bryant isn’t more involved in the goat conversation. That debate has been reserved for James and Michael Jordan for almost a decade now. So, Lakers and especially diehard Kobe fans, feel some kind of way about that, and I get it.
But is passing Abdul-Jabbar the final step in passing Jordan for the title of goat? If you ask LeBron, he’s been the goat since he led the Cavs back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals. His words, not mine. Whether you’re in LeBron’s camp or Jordan’s, being viewed as the second greatest player in professional basketball history isn’t anything to be ashamed of. Of course, everyone wants to be No. 1, but there can only be one.
It’ll be challenging, but James can still surpass Jordan in the minds of the masses. All he has to do is win one more championship, or two, or three. Yes, the way things look, it will be extremely tough for LeBron to even sniff another title with these Lakers. We’re talking about an entire reconstruction of a team that was almost completely overhauled this past offseason. Knowing James, there will likely be many changes to this roster in the offseason, but I just don’t know if at this point it’ll be enough to propel them back into championship contention.