LeBron James reaches No. 2 on NBA’s career scoring list, but Lakers lose to Wizards
A free throw in Boston. A jumper in Detroit. A Kobe Bryant-inspired dunk in Los Angeles. A banked-in three-pointer in Toronto.
Over 19 seasons, these individual moments have been opportunities to celebrate LeBron James and his mostly unmatched basketball skills.
They were just slices of the story — scoring was never the complete way to judge him anyway. But over time, these points added up — the alley-oop in Portland, the up-and-under in San Antonio, the step-back in Charlotte and the layup in Chicago.
Saturday in Washington, it was a thundering dunk, a driving layup, a handful of threes and, finally, a cutting layup that pushed James up the NBA’s all-time scoring leaderboard to No. 2, trailing only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
The historic basket came midway into the second quarter of the Lakers’ 127-119 loss. Stanley Johnson found James on a back-door cut into the paint for a right-handed layup for his 36,930th career point, moving him past Karl Malone for second on the NBA’s career scoring list.
“Just to be part of this league the many years I’ve been a part of it and being linked to some of the greatest who’ve ever played this game and guys I’ve ever watched or studied or read about or aspired to be like … I’m just always lost for words for it,” James said.
“It’s an honor for myself, for my hometown and for my family and my friends to be able to live these moments throughout this journey. And that’s exactly who I do it for. I do it for my family, my friends, my hometown and anybody who’s been a part of this journey throughout this run so far.”
At the next dead ball after the go-ahead basket, the Washington Wizards acknowledged the accomplishment on the scoreboard. As the crowd rose to its feet for an ovation, James finally acknowledged the moment, one hand in the air as his former teammate Kentavious Caldwell-Pope congratulated him.
LeBron James scored 19 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter and overtime to lead the Lakers to a 128-123 victory against the Raptors on Friday.
Caldwell-Pope was also on the court in 2019 when James passed Michael Jordan for No. 4 in Los Angeles and in 2020 when he passed Bryant for third in Philadelphia.
James reached second in scoring in his 1,363rd game. Malone, who scored his final points as a member of the Lakers, had 36,928 points in 1,476 games.
Like so many of James’ milestones this season, it came without the Lakers getting a win. He scored 38 and Russell Westbrook added 22, but the Lakers’ defense failed them late.
“This is a moment in time where we can’t get caught up in the pain of this loss and recognize what an incredible feat this is for LeBron. And to do it in the fashion that he did it. He just attacked the game tonight,” coach Frank Vogel said. “He came in and was aggressive on both sides of the ball, second night of a back to back, really playing with incredible energy after playing 45 minutes last night. And just a signature performance in a game where he passes one of the greats ... It’s really impressive and I’m super happy for him.
He now trails Abdul-Jabbar by 1,440 points to equal the record of 38,387.
Saturday, James was a game-time decision to play, suiting up on the second night of a back-to-back once his lingering knee swelling wasn’t a problem.
“When I got to the arena and got done with my activation, got done with my treatment I felt good enough to go,” James said. “So the question of not playing went out the door right then and there.”
He started the night with a putback. Added points on a slick driving reverse and thundering one-handed dunk. He got hot from deep and hit back-to-back triples, forcing the Wizards into a timeout.
The Lakers got off to another slow start and could not hit open shots Wednesday against Minnesota, and the Timberwolves had some things to say.
And while James was hot, the Lakers offense, in total, continued to hum after an impressive overtime win in Toronto. It’s why Vogel thinks his team has a better shot than most might believe.
After winning on the road for the first time since Jan. 25 on Friday, a win Saturday would have given the Lakers their first winning streak since they won four straight on Jan. 7.
Since then, the Lakers are 9-22.
“I don’t like the record at all,” Vogel said pregame. “That’s not a fun thing to be a part of, losing this much. But, I think the outside perception of our direction and what we have, and what our chances are this year are different than what we feel inside. I do believe that. I do believe.
“We feel like we’re at least going to have an opportunity in the play-in to play one game or two games ... At that time, hopefully we can be playing our best basketball and getting Anthony Davis back. And we feel like we can win those two games and put ourselves in position to be in a seven-game series. Again, if we continue to grow and play our best basketball down the stretch, we have belief in what we can do this year.”
The Lakers led by 16 on Saturday, withstanding every push from the Wizards, who were without Kyle Kuzma. But Kristaps Porzingis scored 16 points in the fourth quarter, including a game-sealing three-pointer, leading to a helpless shrug from James and the Lakers’ suddenly ineffective small lineups.
There are positives to take away from the loss, but the sting of the game certainly dampened James’ postgame mood. But it shouldn’t be that way, not Saturday night at least, Lakers forward Carmelo Anthony said.
“We just have to celebrate the accomplishments, man,” he said. “There’s so much else we’re dealing with in sports. It’s all about competing, wins and losses. But at the end of the day, when you have a milestone like that, you have to celebrate.”
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