With every bucket that moved him closer to reaching that cherished and lofty number: 38,387, LeBron James felt a heavier sense of history. He had coveted this moment, and one guy in particular, for the duration of his career.
He was now sporting a Lakers jersey, with its purple and gold color scheme perfectly fitting the occasion. He had four rings, four Most Valuable Player honors during the regular season, and four NBA Finals MVPs. The résumé glistened. A week previously, he had even solidified his position as the NBA player with the fourth-most assists, serving as a reminder to anyone who needed it of the multifarious absurdity of his basketball abilities.
Like the rest of us, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was there to observe and wait. The first few rows of what was formerly the Staples Center were filled with Hollywood aristocracy. The level of the media was comparable to the NBA Finals. Everything seemed to have a weighty, gorgeous, and inevitable weight to it.
And when he took that shot — iso, a slight shoulder nudge, the entire world watching, eager, and holding their breath — its beautiful arch and the two points that brought him to 38,388 hadn’t only surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the all-time scoring record.
The actual objective of his efforts, the true goal of a career that will now go down as the greatest of all time, had been passed by Michael Jordan as well.
In support of Jordan’s status as the game’s GOAT, there is a lot to say. The six championships, the flawless six-for-six Finals record, the absence of a Game 7 in any of those Finals victories, the NCAA title, and the basketball team’s cold-blooded, almost magical capacity to keep winning and winning.
However, history has a tendency of forgetting just as much as it remembers, so LeBron’s performance on Tuesday won’t only cement him as a great player. Additionally, it will benefit a lot of people to think of Jordan as something that was rather than something that is.
Those who are addicted to history may find the past tense cruel. And LeBron just won the future in this now. The record will endure in a way that other greatness nuances won’t.
I wrote this as a Jordan era child, a fan, and someone who grew up wanting to be like Mike. I played that jingle nonstop as I traveled from Iowa to the Chicago suburbs and back, taking in the two three-peats as if they were happening right next door, as if I were a witness to an event that would never be repeated.
When we assessed basketball and pointed to its greatest player back then, wanting to be like Mike meant genuinely not wanting anyone else to be like him. Mike was meant to perform by himself. Forever.
However, LeBron is now that player. In a manner that makes his excellence so similar to Jordan’s but with a longevity Mike cannot match, he has been too amazing for too long, with too much dominance. All of stuff is summed up in the score record for all time.
Even during Jordan’s reign as the GOAT, some wise men maintained that Kareem was the real GOAT, arguing, writing, disputing, and claiming as much. Kareem was the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, a rebounding machine, a six-time champion, and everything else that distinguished his incredible career.
They knew it wasn’t Jordan because they had seen Kareem. But time marches on. It is liable to change like that.
Being the real all-time best requires eliminating, just a little bit, your competitors’ position in history. A zero-sum game is the GOAT game. You are not only constructing anything. If you pass someone while pursuing them, it will reduce them.
Kareem and the Magic-Bird duality that came before him were both affected by what Jordan accomplished to them. LeBron has now treated them all the same way.
Mike was always the main focus of this song rather than Kareem. LeBron and I spoke for a televised interview years ago, the kind where men tend to hold back on being completely honest when the camera is trained on them and the lights are flashing down.
Even though LeBron was in a particularly upbeat mood that day, his eyes lit up when I asked him if he wanted to surpass Michael Jordan as the greatest player of all time. This was before his second stint in Cleveland in 2013, and it was the kind of question that would normally cause most people to stifle an eye roll and signal to handlers to end the conversation.
Even if his intensity was genuine, it appeared as though he was looking at a possible future strategy. similar to Tuesday night
He declared, “I want to be the best player of all time.”
And he is today.
Tuesday night, LeBron took two actions. He went by Kareem. And he changed how we would perceive Michael Jordan over time, but inexorably.
not due to Jordan’s lack of brilliance. neither old. Jordan was such a fantastic and brilliant player that he appeared to defy what was thought to be possible. However, this is how history may operate. As history is created, other elements are gradually overshadowed, weakened, or pushed aside.
It can take some time for things to calm down, for the zeitgeist to catch up, and for the arbitrary but potent currents of public opinion to move in the direction they must eventually. The act has been completed, but the controversy will undoubtedly continue, especially this week.
Not only did LeBron surpass Kareem’s record. He surpassed Jordan as the top player.
The GOAT is now LeBron.