Lakers' LeBron James reaches 40,000 career points

March 3, 2024, 7:49 AM

LOS ANGELES -- LeBron James continues to extend his NBA career to uncharted territory, reaching 40,000 career points Saturday night at Arena.

James came into the Los Angeles Lakers' game against the Denver Nuggets needing nine points to reach the mark. He got there with a driving layup at the 10:39 mark of the second quarter.

"I feel like I'm still that threat out on the floor and I am still able to do the things that I was doing 10 years ago," James said after the Lakers' 124-114 loss. "And some things I was doing 20 years ago, which is weird to say."

James finished with 26 points, putting his career total at 40,017 career points. 

"No one has ever done it," James said earlier this week when asked about the point total. "And for me to be in this position at this point and time in my career, I think it's pretty cool. Does it sit at the top of the things I've done in my career? No. But does it mean something? Of course. Absolutely. Why wouldn't it? To be able to accomplish things in this league, with the greatest players to ever play in this league, the NBA, this has been a dream of mine, and to hit feats and have milestones throughout my career, they all mean something to me.

"Obviously, there's a pecking order of which [accomplishments] are higher than others, but I would be lying to you if I said it doesn't mean anything. Because it absolutely does."

James airballed his first shot of the night -- a turnaround jumper over Denver's Aaron Gordon -- and then quickly found his groove. Anthony Davis bounced an outlet pass to him as James sprinted down the floor, and the 21-year veteran finished the sequence with a layup at the rim. Not long after, James hit a corner 3-pointer with Nikola Jokic guarding him.

He finished the first quarter with five points, and the arena kept a running tally of his countdown to 40,000 on the videoboard.

James started the second quarter with an and-1 layup to bring his total to seven but missed the free throw. He then missed a 3-pointer the next time down, with fans holding up their phones to record the possession in anticipation of his record-setting hoop.

On the Lakers' next trip down the floor, James got the ball beyond the 3-point line, used a spin move to dribble around Michael Porter Jr. and scored a left-handed layup to give him nine points for the game and an even 40,000 for his career.

During an ensuing timeout, James was presented the game ball, waved to his family in the stands and received a standing ovation from the crowd after the Lakers played a tribute video on the jumbotron.

James reached the milestone on the 62nd anniversary of Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game. In the locker room after the game, James posed for a photograph while holding a piece of white paper with "40,000" handwritten on it -- a tip of the cap to Chamberlain's iconic photo from March 2, 1962.

James passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's career scoring total of 38,387 points last season to become the league's all-time scoring leader, a record Abdul-Jabbar held for nearly 40 years.

"You just come to assume and expect these great things that he's doing, whether it's making seven 3s or his downhill attacks, taking off from the [dotted half circle in the lane] still at this point in time in his career," Lakers coach Darvin Ham said before Saturday's game. "We're not going to see this for a lot longer and have to appreciate him while he's here. ... Just appreciate him for what he's given to the game, what he continues to give to the game and his knowledge, his performance.

"I'm honored to be able to coach him and see it firsthand."

No other active player has even 30,000 career points. Phoenix Suns star Kevin Durant is closest with 28,342 points, which makes him the league's No. 9 all-time leading scorer.

Asked if he is motivated to keep playing to pad his scoring lead, James said the record was never something he aimed for.

"I never thought about getting the scoring record," James said. "It just happened organically. I played the game the right way and went out and played the game and let the game come to me, and the scoring record happened organically for me. It was never a goal of mine when I came into the league, like I wanted to be the all-time leading scorer. But I'm still playing. And I can still score the ball, so [his point total is] going to go up until I'm done playing."

Lakers big man Anthony Davis doubted that James' scoring total would ever be eclipsed.

"I mean, you would think possibly Steph [Curry], the way he shoots the ball, but I guess not?" Davis said of the Golden State Warriors star, who hasn't reached 25,000 points. "It's just tough because he's not finished playing, so it's only going to increase. That gap is only going to get bigger and bigger. ... As of right now, I don't see anybody breaking his record."

James, however, said he believes his record is not unbreakable.

"Obviously we have a lot of great guys in our league that can score the ball, and if they were to stay healthy and they would play a long time, then they can eclipse it," James said. "And then, records are always meant to be broken. You can never say never for any record. At one point we said that Big O's [Oscar Robertson's] triple-double record would never be broken and Russ [Westbrook] did it, and now looks like Joker [ Nikola Jokic] and Luka [Doncic], they're doing it every night."

The milestone came in what was the Lakers' eighth straight loss to the Nuggets -- who swept them out of the Western Conference finals last spring -- and continued a trend of James' teams falling short when he has a record on the line.

"I was just telling him in the locker room he might have to stop breaking records because we always lose any time he breaks a record," Davis said. "And he said the same thing."

James' 30,000th point came in a loss to the San Antonio Spurs in January 2018; his 35,000th point came in a loss to the Brooklyn Nets in February 2021. When he passed Michael Jordan for No. 4 on the all-time scoring list in March 2019, it came in a loss to Denver. When he passed Kobe Bryant for No. 3 in January 2020, it came in a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. When he passed Karl Malone for No. 2 in March 2022, it came in a loss to the Washington Wizards. And when he overtook Abdul-Jabbar for No. 1 in February 2023, it came in a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

"For me, the main thing is always the main thing, and that's the win," James said. "I hated that it had to happen in the defeat, especially versus the team that plays extremely well. We played some good basketball tonight, but wasn't able to close it out. So, bittersweet but enjoyed every moment tonight on the floor."