After another amazing night, LeBron James is poised to reach No. 2 on NBA scoring list

Lakers forward LeBron James pulls up for a shot against the Raptors.
Lakers forward LeBron James pulls up for a shot against the Raptors on Friday night, when he scored 16 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter during an overtime win in Toronto.
(Chris Young / Associated Press)
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LeBron James spun and launched a three seemingly toward the rafters, the ball somehow finding the backboard before pushing through the net.

It was part of another wild offensive night for the Lakers’ best player — a huge shot during a stretch when he was scoring in every possible way.

This night was different from most. This time, the Lakers won, beating the Raptors 128-123 in overtime.


It’s been the strange undercurrent to James’ amazing season, his offensive mastery coming at a time when it’s been unable to consistently impact winning. The Lakers’ other problems, the injuries, bad fits, rotten luck and flawed roster — even this offensive groove hasn’t been able to overcome all that.

So as James moves to the doorstep of the No. 2 spot on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, it’s good to do it with some positive vibes after a good win in Toronto.

“Winning is what’s most important to me and what’s always been most important to me,” James said. “But the one thing I’ve been able to do is keep the joy of the game. … I understand that we’re taking a lot of losses this season and whatever the case may be. But the joy of the game and going out there and competing is so damn fun, like it’s so fun.

LeBron James passed Karl Malone and moved into second place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, but the Lakers fell 127-119 to the Wizards in Washington.

March 19, 2022

“And obviously the frustration of losing and things of that nature obviously in the heat of the battle, you feel it that way, but it’s a joy to play the game. And it’s a joy to go out there and play at this level at this point in my career, so I’m still having a blast.”

It’s essentially a lock that James will take Karl Malone’s spot on the all-time leaderboard in his next game, trailing Malone by just 19 points. His status for Saturday’s game against the Wizards in Washington will be decided this morning.

If he doesn’t play, he’d have a chance to reach the milestone in Cleveland on Monday.

“He just wants to win, and he wants to dominate the game any way that he can.” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said pregame. “So obviously he’s really grown as a perimeter shooter, and he’s really grown at this stage of his career to score as a receiver, and not just initiating anything. And those are two really remarkable late career adjustments that he’s made that I think he has to be commended for.


“And obviously we’re not having a great season, but I don’t know where we would be without what he’s doing in terms of scoring the basketball. So it’s really remarkable. He continues to defy the odds and show everybody his greatness.”

He showed those evolutions explicitly late against the Raptors, playing off of Russell Westbrook, still dominating when the Lakers needed him to take over — scoring 16 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter — and even acting as the Lakers’ primary rim protector.

“That’s part of what makes him the greatest, is his ability to just [make] whatever play is necessary, whatever side of the floor, whether it’s the extra pass, the big three, the free throws, the defensive assignment of guarding the best guy or making the help side block like he did tonight, coming up with big rebounds,” Vogel said after the win. “It’s just … it’s remarkable how he can impact every single play in any way you can impact a play.”

Soon, likely either Saturday or Monday, he’ll have another milestone to bolster his case as the greatest.

“I mean it’s amazing, as everyone’s been able to see,” Avery Bradley said. “From even the start of his career and me being a fan, a kid in high school, to playing against him and now having an opportunity to be on his team. It’s just incredible to now be a part of, and he’s just a special player.


“To me, greatest ever.”