What Showtime Lakers and other legends are saying about LeBron James


Former Lakers stars and Hall of Famers give their impressions of LeBron James overtaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s all-time scoring leader.


Shaquille O’Neal

Shaquille O'Neal is chest-bumped by Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant.
Shaquille O’Neal is chest-bumped by Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant after O’Neal got fouled scoring in the first half of a game against Damon Stoudamire (3) and the Trail Blazers in 2002.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The Hall of Fame center, now an analyst for TNT, played with LeBron James in Cleveland during the 2009-2010 season. O’Neal won three NBA championships with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers and another one with Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat.


“I knew LeBron was going to be great, but I didn’t think he was going to be like this. I didn’t think anybody would break that scoring record. I was going for Wilt’s record. Wilt was the most dominant and whenever they talk about categories, LeBron, Kobe and Jordan, they are in that ‘GOAT’ conversation. Wilt and I are in the most dominant conversation. So, I’m in a category that has two people. If I would have passed Wilt up, I would have heard people say there was only one. I passed him up in championships but I wanted to pass him up in other categories.

“But, naw, I didn’t think anybody would be able to get [the scoring record]. It’s a phenomenal feat. He’s been a great ambassador for the league. And I don’t think it’ll be broken for another 30, 40 years.

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“Me, Kobe and Ron Harper went to see Bron play when he was in high school and I knew he was special then. There have been only a handful of guys that came in from Day 1 — I’m one of those guys and he’s one of those guys and Magic — that just dominated from Day 1. And Bron has been through three different eras. He holds his own in our era. He had his own era. Now he’s dominating these little boys in this era.

“I played with him. Playing with him was the first time I didn’t have to do no work. He had it on lock. Everybody was focused. He had everything on lock. He was actually doing stuff I had never seen before. I was like, ‘Damn.’ Then I was just a bonafide role player so I didn’t have to go over and break no heads and whip no asses. Like, he already had that in check.

“I’m very proud of him. When I first met him, he was always a respectful kid. I know his family very well. I’m happy for him, I really am.


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“When you talk about ambassadors of the league, he is. He’s never been in trouble. No scandals. Makes the right business decisions. Plays the right way. True definition of a great player. We always used to talk about that he doesn’t have a killer instinct. But he must have something because he’s about to get [the scoring record]. He was sort of like Penny Hardaway — if you are open, he’s going to get that ball to you.

“The good thing about LeBron is he’s always averaged 20 [points] since Day 1. He came in averaging 20, so 20 years of averaging 20 will get you 38,000 points. Yeah. And the crazy thing is he’s got, what, two years left [on his contract]? Man, he’s going to be at 43,000 points. That’s what I’m thinking.”


James Worthy

Lakers Hall of Famer James Worthy chats with LeBron James (23) at media day in 2018.
Lakers Hall of Famer James Worthy chats with LeBron James (23) at media day in 2018, James’ first season with the franchise.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

The Hall of Fame forward, now an analyst with Spectrum SportsNet, played during the Showtime Era with Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, winning three NBA championships.

“When Kareem broke Wilt Chamberlain’s record — and he’s had it for so long, from 1985 to 2023 — I just didn’t think anybody could get that just because some great players came through that didn’t get close. I think Karl Malone was the only one that came close. So, for LeBron to come in and everybody was like Magic Johnson, 6-9, great passer. So, I get that. That’s who he is and always has been. And then I think somewhere along the way, early in his career, he said, ‘Yeah, I’ve always been a passer and an assist guy. But look at MJ and look at Kobe. Look at those guys. I need to add that dominance. I need to be on both ends.’ So, I just think over time, man, he just took that on. And he has continuously elevated his game, man. No one has had the mental capacity that he has, other than MJ, Kobe and Kareem. Kareem had that longevity of discipline and know-how to overcome stuff at the moment. So, LeBron probably picked up on a lot of people. So, in all of his characteristics, it’s a blend of what he saw — Kobe, Michael.


“But he has captivated all necessary things that I don’t even think he knew he could do. And when you throw in discipline and spending $2 million on your health. See, we didn’t have that, but Kareem had it, eating good, yoga, spiritually. He had it. Of course, Magic had it. Magic had the mental capacity.

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“But I always say if Kareem had been able to come out of high school, we might not be talking about this. He didn’t even get to play as a freshman in college at UCLA. He would have killed too right out of high school, no doubt.

“Utah had a couple of regular-season games in Las Vegas and one of them was us, at Mack [Center]. I remember it distinctively. His mom and dad were there, the Alcindors. It was on the right side block and somebody was getting ready to throw it in there and could just see Magic like, ‘Hey, hey, hey. Give me that damn ball.’ Magic went over there, threw it into Kareem. He took that sky hook from about 12 feet over Mark Eaton and that was it and we all stopped the game, gave him the ball. His mom and dad come onto the court. It was my third year in the league. Now, the cool thing was that I still remember, when we get back to L.A., Wilt comes to the arena to give Kareem the ball. He had these orange bell bottoms on and a tank top. That was so cool to see those two giants together.”


Charles Barkley

Charles Barkley, right, joins Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on stage at the NBA Awards show in 2018.
Charles Barkley, right, joins Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on stage at the NBA Awards show in 2018 to present Oscar Robertson (not pictured) with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica.
(Chris Pizzello /Invision via AP)

The Hall of Fame forward, now an analyst for TNT, began his NBA career in the middle of the Showtime Era.


“It’s just an amazing accomplishment and it says of his greatness and his longevity. I don’t think it’s going to get broken again.

“Well, we didn’t think Kareem was the best so why would we think that now [of LeBron]. Michael Jordan, in my opinion, is the best. I mean, it’s just a great accomplishment. But you have to take all these things with a grain of salt. These guys all have a four-year start from guys of my generation, and that’s not a knock, it’s just a fact. LeBron didn’t have to go to college for four years like these other guys did. Four years is a lot of basketball. But it’s still a great accomplishment and it says something about someone’s greatness and longevity. Michael Jordan, as great as he was, he still had to go to college for three years. I know Kareem had to go for four years. So, you have to say, even though it’s a great accomplishment, you have to say, ‘OK, Bron did have a four-year head start.’ Like, all these records. But you have to factor in that’s a huge advantage to get a four-year head start.

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“Now LeBron will go down as one of the top five best players ever. And listen let’s be fair, all this stuff is generational. I mean, none of these guys saw Kareem play. None of these guys saw Wilt [Chamberlain] or Bill Russell. I mean, think about it. If you was born in the last 30 years, you ain’t even seen Michael Jordan play. There are some people who think Kareem is the greatest and they have that right. That’s why I think we should do it generation to generation. I just think that’s a weak argument from you guys who have no talent on TV like to have that debate. I love LeBron. I’ve said before his story is probably the greatest accomplishment. Not just his basketball history and maybe sports history. People forget that Kobe, Kevin Garnett, those guys struggled their first few years in the NBA. LeBron for what he has accomplished, from the first day he stepped on an NBA court, as far as being ready from Day 1, and never getting in trouble, is the greatest accomplishment in sports history. First of all, I love Kobe. Love Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady, guys who went straight to the pros, they all struggled in the beginning. LeBron is the only one from Day 1 who played good. But I think the most amazing thing is for him to play this long and never really get in trouble is crazy.

“LeBron is playing great. He’s a wonderful person.”


Robert Horry

Robert Horry is swarmed by teammates after making the winning shot in the 2002 Western Conference finals.
Robert Horry is swarmed by teammates after making the winning shot in the 2002 Western Conference finals against the Kings.
(Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times)

The former Lakers great, now an analyst for Spectrum SportsNet, won seven NBA championships, including three with the Lakers.


“For me, it just speaks to LeBron’s longevity, because that’s the only way you are going to break a record like that. You think about how hard it is to stay healthy in an 82-game season and then to still be on teams that can win, because when you are scoring like that, teams tend to key in on you. But that dude can still score, he still makes the people around him better, so it’s amazing that he has a chance to break the record. But I still think Kareem’s record, for me, is still a little bit better than LeBron’s because Kareem only made one three. I look at the fact it was all points in the paint. That’s a lot of buckets. That’s what you look at, compared to LeBron’s threes. And I’m not saying that LeBron’s record is not amazing. His durability is the reason why he’s breaking that record. Kareem and LeBron didn’t get hurt much. They are special.

“And LeBron is still doing it, at a high rate, too.”


Ron Harper

Ron Harper, second from right, jogs with Lakers teammates Horace Grant, Tyronn Lue and Shaquille O'Neal.
Ron Harper, second from right, jogs with Lakers teammates Horace Grant, Tyronn Lue and Shaquille O’Neal at practice during the 2001 NBA Finals in Philadelphia.
(Chris Gardner / Associated Press)

The five-time NBA champion grew up in Dayton, Ohio, and has known LeBron James since he was in high school. Harper won three titles with the Michael Jordan Bulls and two with the Kobe Bryant/Shaquille O’Neal Lakers.

“Yeah, I’ve been knowing him for a while. He’s a good dude. Everybody falls in that trap, is he better than [Michael Jordan]? Is he better than Kareem? Listen, man, there is enough for everybody. I tell people this: MJ and LeBron ain’t the same type of player. MJ is a scorer. LeBron is an Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson type. Everybody wants to compare and compete. I don’t get into that. It’s enough for all of them.

“It’s called longevity, hard work, staying motivated and believing in what he can do. I saw him play in high school, but I went to one of his workouts one evening and I was like, ‘Yo, he’s doing an NBA pro workout right now in high school.’ And then when I went to his high school game, I took Kobe and Shaq to the game [in Ohio]. At halftime, I told them I was about to go to my house. They said, ‘Where you going? He got another half to play?’ I said, ‘Man, he’s a man among little boys playing. I don’t need to see no more. I saw all I need to see. He’s going to be a good pro. He’s going to play a lot of years.’ And I walked out of the gym. That size, that speed. He’s one of a few players, 6-8, 230 and he gets a step-and-a-half and he’s in full-stride mode.


“That’s Ohio’s finest. We’re all proud of him. Anybody who comes in the game with the hype, with the name the ‘Chosen One, King James,’ he was one of the few players who lived up to what the hype was all about. You always see these guys and hear these guys coming in and they are such-and-such and then they pan out to be a B-U-S-T. Not this guy. This guy believed in himself and has worked tremendously hard at his game and it’s so good to see. He takes care of himself. He’s one of the few players that has played more games than anybody. He built the empire. He built his brand. Everybody wanted to be like MJ. LeBron is one of the few that built his own.”


Jerry West

The legendary Lakers player and executive, now a consultant with the Clippers, finished his playing career as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was entering the prime of his 20-year career. West helped build Lakers championship teams in the Showtime Era and ushered in a new century of winning by acquiring Kobe Bryant on NBA draft day.

“I think there is something that you say to yourself: ‘Is there a record that won’t be broken?’ When that happened, I said who is going to play this many years, at such a high level for his whole career, and all of a sudden, this young little puppy [LeBron] comes out and grows up to be a real big puppy with enormous skill and look at what he’s about to accomplish. And I don’t think this is the end of it, at all. I down see a slowdown and particularly the way the game is played today, open court, the three-point line. He’s become a very proficient three-point shooter. And that’s a remarkable thing when I look at him how he has elevated his game and yet he seemingly has not lost a step.

“I said if people didn’t look at records of teams, I think that he could be considered most valuable player[every year]. That’s how good he has been. He has carried a team that has … brought a bunch of people in there that has played well for him. But I think it’s because of his urging, the way he makes them. It seems like he gets smarter. And to me, there is no smarter player in basketball. There’s no player of his size and caliber that can do the things he can do every night. So, I’m a fan. I guess the thing that maybe I feel badly for is Kareem, because I enjoyed him for years. He never said a word. He went out there and that little sky hook, unstoppable. Just a completely different kind of player.


“This event, this is almost like going to see a big Broadway show that you can’t get it. … People are going to see a record broken that I never dreamed possible.

“One of the things he does that is pretty interesting is he talks to the fans all the time and they seem to be very receptive to him regardless of where he goes. And I think that’s respect and admiration they have for what he’s accomplished as an athlete. And if you look at him personally, some of the things he’s done off the floor I applaud him for. So, he has a soul. He has to have a soul. Some people seem soulless. No, not him. He’s just one of those unusual, special athletes that comes along every once in a while.

“Most of my conversations with him are via text. I probably shouldn’t even do that because he plays for another team, but they are all about things that he has done in his career that I admire. The things off the court have been particularly a big part of that. And greatness, I’m going to tell you. I don’t care what sport you are in. I’m going to say I love to watch you play. You stand out among the crowd and he really stands out among the crowd. I was just thinking this morning when I was having breakfast what am I going to say to him? Everyone is going to say the same thing, everyone. He’s always good about responding. If I knew I was bugging him, I don’t do it that often, I wouldn’t do it. But I think that with him he just has respect for the game. He does. He has respect for a lot of players from the past. I know that. … People do get hidden, they get overlooked. Mr. James has never been overlooked. I think maybe from the time he was probably 10 years old he never was overlooked. There is something special about him, OK? He’s special.”