Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is now the second leading scorer in NBA history. LeBron James eclipsed his 38,387 points Tuesday night with a fadeaway jumper against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Hall of Fame center was in attendance at the Los Angeles Lakers game to show his support. He stood next to James in a brief ceremony after he scored the record-breaking shot and gave him a hug.
On Wednesday, Abdul-Jabbar published an essay further congratulating the current Lakers star, explaining the hype leading up to the moment and sharing why he and James never had a strong relationship.
‘Whenever a sports record is broken — including mine — it’s a time for celebration,’ he said. ‘It means someone has pushed the boundaries of what we thought was possible to a whole new level. And when one person climbs higher than the last person, we all feel like we are capable of being more.’
Abdul-Jabbar said he ‘had to laugh’ at the speculation surrounding what his thoughts were on his record being passed.
Prior to James capturing the scoring title, he was asked about his relationship with Abdul-Jabbar, which he said was nonexistent. Fellow Laker great Magic Johnson also suggested that there might be tension between the old guard and new.
Follow every game: Latest NBA Scores and Schedules
The six-time NBA champion said that he was hurt by the comments and wants people to understand that he has nothing but desire to celebrate James’ accomplishment.
‘It’s as if I won a billion dollars in a lottery and 39 years later someone won two billion dollars,’ he said. ‘How would I feel? Grateful that I won and happy that the next person also won. His winning in no way affects my winning.’
Abdul-Jabbar continued that it’s been 34 years since he retired from the league and is now more focused on his social justice efforts — the NBA named its social justice award after him in 2021 — and his family. He takes full responsibility for not developing a relationship with James.
‘By nature I have never been a chummy, reaching-out kind of guy (as the media was always quick to point out). I’m quiet, shy, and am such a devoted homebody that you’d think I have agoraphobia. I like to read, watch TV, listen to jazz. That’s pretty much it. …
‘That disconnect is on me. I knew the pressures he was under and maybe I could have helped ease them a bit. But I saw that LeBron had a friend and mentor in Kobe Bryant and I was just an empty jersey in the rafters. I couldn’t imagine why he’d want to hang with someone twice his age. How many do?’
Despite the lack of connection, Abdul-Jabbar said his appreciation for James has grown throughout the years as he excelled on the court and showed care for social justice issues off of it.
‘LeBron makes me love the game again,’ he said. ‘And he makes me proud to be part of an ever-widening group of athletes who actively care about their community.’