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LeBron James holds NBA's career scoring record, passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar


The NBA has a new all-time scoring king. Last night, in Los Angeles, Lakers star LeBron James passed Hall-of-Fame center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to move into first place on the list of all-time points scored.


James came into Tuesday's game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, needing a mere 36 points to set the record. No problem for LeBron. He got there on a fadeaway jump shot with about 10 seconds left in the third quarter. Here's how it sounded on TNT.


BRIAN ANDERSON: Coming to the end of the third quarter. LeBron James. A shot at history. And there it is. LeBron stands alone.

FADEL: NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman is with me to talk about this. Hi, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila.

FADEL: So we heard the moment. Describe what happened after.

GOLDMAN: Well, you can hear the crowd went crazy. And that crowd included Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. They stopped the game, had an on-court ceremony, a nice moment when James and Abdul-Jabbar hugged. Then Abdul-Jabbar - he has held the record since 1984 - he took the game ball and theatrically handed it to James, symbolizing the passing of the record. Now, James broke Abdul-Jabbar's record of 38,387 points. The new record will keep growing. James is 38. He's playing as well as he ever has. If he stays healthy, he's going to be around several more years. And it's not crazy to think the mark will go over...


GOLDMAN: ...Forty thousand before he's finished. That's going to be tough to break. Although, it was said Kareem's record would never be broken, and here we are.

FADEL: Yeah. And James has accomplished a lot in his 20-year career, four NBA titles, four league MVP awards. Where does this scoring record rank?

GOLDMAN: You know, it's a really big deal because when people think of basketball, they think of scoring, even though there are many aspects to the game. Now, James has said throughout his career he's always loved passing more, getting teammates involved. In fact, he just moved to the No. 4 on the all-time assist list. That's a testament to that love of passing the ball. So the scoring record is major. But for James, it's really not the pinnacle of his career. Here he is after the game.


LEBRON JAMES: This was not a goal for me. That's why it's probably so surreal and so just, like, weird to me because I never, ever talked about being an all-time scorer in NBA history. I've - it's never even been a thought of mind until I just, I guess - I start seeing my numbers get closer and closer. I was like, oh, wow.

FADEL: Now, there's been a huge outpouring of support, congratulations from inside the sports world and out. Is it just because of the record? Or is it because it's James?

GOLDMAN: You know, it's definitely both, Leila. I mean, a lot of people really like this guy and who he's become in his two decades in the limelight. He was a kid who had a hard upbringing in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. He didn't have a father present. But he had a lot of people who helped him develop as an athlete and as a person. He talks a lot, and he did last night again, about the importance of being a good husband and a good dad. In an age of athlete activism, he's been at the forefront, speaking out on social issues. The school he opened for at-risk kids in Akron has been widely praised. Now, he's had a few stumbles. But considering how he's grown up as a mega celebrity with so much attention on him, it's really impressive how grounded he is. And it's made him incredibly popular.

FADEL: NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Thanks, Tom.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.