Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is well-aware that LeBron James is right behind him. The Los Angeles Lakers forward is exactly 1,326 points away from taking the crown as the all-time scoring leader in NBA history. Is Jabbar anxious, thrilled, or detached that his nearly four-decade reign as the most prolific scorer in basketball is closed to being shattered?
Abdul-Jabbar addressed the matter on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon. The host asked him the age-old question: Who is the Greatest of All Time? Michael Jordan, LeBron James, or him?
This seems to be the right answer. Like Jordan himself said multiple times, to be labeled the GOAT is obviously a form of a compliment. But Jordan knows that he has never battled against the greats that came before him, like Jerry West, Oscar Robertson, and Wilt Chamberlain, to name a few. And so there’s no way to determine if Jordan or anyone else not part of that era is indeed the greatest.
All-time scoring record
After sharing his thoughts on the GOAT debate, Jabbar made a left turn to his all-time scoring record, which is at risk of being broken by James. 3-point assassins Ray Allen and Reggie Miller were thrilled when Stephen Curry was inches away from becoming the all-time leader in 3-point field goals made. They were even at the arena when Curry broke the record.
Does Abdul-Jabbar harbor the same feelings? Will he be thrilled if LeBron surpasses him? Or will he hate his guts? Jabbar gave an interesting answer.
Kareem fans may be used to his cold and mysterious tone when talking about LeBron and the scoring record. In an earlier interview, he claimed he was thrilled to see James snag the record. But at the same time, he didn’t shower LeBron with praise as most analysts do.
“I’m excited to see it happen. I don’t see records as personal accomplishments, but more as human achievements. If one person can do something that’s never been done, that means we all have a shot at doing it,” Abdul-Jabbar said, per Marc Stein’s substack.
Abdul-Jabbar’s rather indifferent approach is understandable. Nobody ever thought that someone would come into the NBA and shatter his longstanding record. Not even Michael Jordan, who dropped 50 points for a hobby, came close to Abdul-Jabbar.
Everybody expected LeBron to be great. But he’s always been a pass-first type of player. Someone in the same ilk as Magic Johnson. And so when he started climbing up the scoring ladder with superhuman-like stamina and endurance, everybody’s eyebrows started raising. Deep inside the pits of Abdul-Jabbar’s heart, I’d bet he wants his record to remain forever.
James scores 1,100 to 2,400 points per season. Due to injuries, last season became his lowest output at 1,126 points in 45 games which is also a career-low. As such, the main challenge for James is to remain healthy. Perhaps 60 games will be enough to boot out Kareem and take the scoring crown.