In the midst of a discouraging season, LeBron James found a bright spot, passing Michael Jordan for fourth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
Michael Jordan has always cast a shadow over LeBron James’ career. Jordan redefined what greatness looked like for an individual athlete, reshaped our conception of a basketball star and threw up benchmark after benchmark. LeBron’s quest for greatness has always been measured against those benchmarks and, last night, he surpassed an enormous one.
A second-quarter layup gave LeBron the 32,293rd point of his career, moving him past Jordan on the all-time scoring list.
This moment has been coming all season but really, it’s something LeBron has been building towards since the first points of his career — scored on a 16-foot jumper back on Oct. 29, 2003. It was clearly an emotional moment and LeBron had at least a few seconds to himself on the bench to let it sink in.
After the game, LeBron spoke with reporters about what the moment meant and the influence Jordan had on him.
“Of all the stuff I’ve done in my career, this ranks right up there at the top with winning a championship. For a kid from Akron, Ohio, that needed inspiration and needed some type of positive influence, MJ was that guy for me. I watched him from afar, wanted to be like MJ, wanted to shoot fadeaways like MJ, wanted to stick my tongue out on dunks like MJ, wanted to wear my sneakers like MJ. I wanted kids to look up to me at some point like MJ and it’s just crazy, to be honest. It’s beyond crazy.”
For his part, Jordan released a statement recognizing what LeBron accomplished, saying, “I want to congratulate LeBron on achieving another great milestone during his amazing career.”
LeBron still finds himself behind Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the all-time scoring list. He trails Kobe by roughly 1,300 points and, barring any unexpected developments, should pass him sometime early next season. There is a healthy gap between LeBron and Malone and Abdul-Jabbar, but if there’s one lesson to take away from his incredible career it’s that anything is possible.