Crowning achievement: The King’s journey to surpassing Kareem



Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, left, hands the ball to Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James after passing Abdul-Jabbar to become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Oklahoma City Thunder Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

By Sederick Oliver, Executive Editor, Image Magazine

To pass or to shoot?

For the better part of 20 years, this has always been the conundrum around LeBron James.

Ridiculed for never being the on-court killer that Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan was.

His offensive bag isn’t as vast, diverse, or aesthetically pleasing as Kyrie Irving or Carmelo Anthony.

Routinely mislabeled as un-clutch despite having the most playoff game-winning buzzer-beaters in NBA history.

Yet somehow despite all that he isn’t, he is now the NBA’s all-time leading regular season scorer.

As a basketball enthusiast and NBA diehard, there’s certain discourse around the game that has always circulated.

Among those talking points were NBA records that people presumed would never be broken, including A.C. Green’s streak of consecutive regular-season games played, John Stockton’s assists record, Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time scoring record.

Well on Feb. 7, one of those was broken and now the conversation has shifted again.

Pass first that passed first

A self-professed “pass-first player,” James’ name has never been included in the conversation for best scorers despite never averaging less than 25 points since his rookie season and also holding the fifth-highest career points per game average.

Fourth on that same list, Kevin Durant, who is widely considered the greatest, most versatile and efficient scorer of his generation, had this to say about his NBA counterpart:

“Bron always was a scorer it felt like, that could pass. I think he’s a scorer first. When you can get 50 like that and average 27 for your career, I really think you a scorer, in my opinion,” said Kevin Durant.

“And on top of having longevity, that’s what brings you to being the number one scorer of all time. I just think he’s a scorer first that can make plays passing. So, I think that’s underselling him by calling him a pass-first player, in my opinion.”

Time and time again, NBA players who are supposed to be James’ rivals express tact and respect yet outsiders rush to deprecate his level of play or accomplishment.

Instead of appreciation and admiration, condemnation and disparaging professional narratives seem to follow James’ name.

Seems odd, for an individual who has never been involved in a major scandal and has been a model citizen since his introduction to the masses.

Talking heads in sports media continue this perpetuation of an adversarial approach to basketball dialogue by constantly comparing, juxtaposing eras and the players inside of them.

Due to sentimentality, their loyalty will always lie with the era in which they grew up watching and were fond of.

Consequently, current/new-age players such James, Durant, and James Harden will always inherently get the shorter end of the stick.

This leads to tantalizing headlines such as…

“Past eras are superior to the current one!”

“LeBron will never be greater than Michael Jordan!”

“Kevin Durant couldn’t win it where he was drafted and had to jump ship!”

“Harden only scored that many points due to the lack of defense!”

Not only are these unfair, these also shouldn’t be conversational pieces.

Whether intentional or not, these analysts are then led to depreciate the value or accomplishment of a current player to prove why their coveted era of basketball is ultimately greater.

The point I’m belaboring is that you shouldn’t have to dim someone’s light in order to shine someone else’s. This sounds like a simple concept on the surface, but seems to be cumbersome for some.

Everyone remembers the Ray Allen game-tying 3-pointer in game six of the 2013 NBA Finals to send the game into overtime that apparently saved LeBron’s legacy.

But everyone seems to conveniently forget James’ 16 points and five assists in the fourth quarter that led to his Heat being in the position for Allen to tie the game in the first place.

Context and nuance is everything in these discussions, but agendas have to be pushed for the sake of ratings and stardom.

The night James passed the late, great Kobe Bryant on the scoring list, Bryant had this to say about James…

This would ultimately be his last tweet due to the untimely passing of Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven other passengers in a tragic helicopter crash.

This was once a competitor of James’ that decided to embrace him as he passed him on the scoring list, instead of rushing to devalue the accomplishment.

Who are we as fans to not do the same?

Who are we to declare what his legacy is based on a 4-6 NBA Finals record or not being as “graceful” as other scorers?

This is legacy…

This is the King’s crowing achievement…

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, center, poses with his family after he passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Oklahoma City Thunder Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis) (AP)