Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's long-standing record as the NBA's all-time record regular season scorer was finally beaten this week, as the great LeBron James scored his 38,388th point on Tuesday night.
Though the LA Lakers would go on to lose by three to the Oklahoma City Thunder, James was widely celebrated on on Tuesday and beyond, as he broke one of the NBA records once thought to be unbeatable.
The former holder, Abdul-Jabbar, was also a Lakers legend during his playing career, and was present in Los Angeles on Tuesday evening to take part in an on-court ceremony honouring James after he broke the longstanding record.
Abdul-Jabbar has become a voice for positive change and social activism since his retirement, and has taken to writing on Substack.
In the aftermath of Tuesday's historic game in LA, he shared his thoughts on LeBron's record-breaking feats in a touching post, which put the on-court achievements of both men into perspective.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar shares touching response to LeBron's record-breaking
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is rightly remembered as one of the NBA's greatest ever players, as a six-time champion, and holder of numerous records at the time of his retirement.
The former Bucks and Lakers center retired in 1989, and has moved into a career of activism, writing, and acting.
After witnessing LeBron James break perhaps his most impressive record of 38,387 regular season points across his NBA career, Abdul-Jabbar took to Substack to share his thoughts on the greatest player of the modern era surpassing his scoring numbers.
He paid tribute to James' feats, and played down any suggestions of bitterness between the pair. He said he rarely, if ever, thought of his records, and that his mind had long since moved past the on-court actions which defined his earlier life. He explained:
Here’s the main reason I don’t care that much about my record being broken: I’m no longer focused on my basketball legacy as much as I am on my social legacy. I’m not trying to build a billion-dollar empire, I write articles in defense of democracy and advocating on behalf of the marginalized.
In a touching ode to his grandchildren, Abdul-Jabbar summed up what is important to him as he passes 75 years of age. Earvin 'Magic' Johnson had suggested that Abdul-Jabbar would find James' record-breaking a "hard pill to swallow", but Kareem was quick to shut down any such suggestion.
Abdul-Jabbar said that Johnson was "very, very wrong" and explained why the record-breaking of LeBron had not bothered him so:
I don’t blame him for thinking that I might be bothered because he knows how competitive I used to be. And, if someone had broken my record within ten years of me setting it, he would probably be right. I might have hobbled out of retirement just to add a few more points on my record.
But that ain’t me today. I’m 75. The only time I ever think of the record is when someone brings it up. I retired from the NBA 34 years ago. For the past 20 years, I’ve occupied myself with social activism, my writing career, and my family—especially my three grandchildren. If I had a choice of having my scoring record remain intact for another hundred years or spend one afternoon with my grandchildren, I’d be on the floor in seconds stacking Legos and eating Uncrustables.
A truly wholesome reminder of what truly matters in life from Abdul-Jabbar, who also gave a powerful meditation on what LeBron James' superhuman feats in the NBA would mean for the next generation of sportspeople in the US.
Undoubtedly one of the great sportsmen of his generation, James will have inspired countless children across the US and beyond to pick up a basketball and fight their way to the NBA. Abdul-Jabbar summed up the importance of idols and role models such as LeBron for the future of sports, with a beautiful statement on the next generation:
That is the magic of sports. To see something seemingly impossible, reminding us that if one person can do it, then we all somehow share in that achievement. It is what sends children onto playgrounds to duplicate a LeBron layup or a Steph Curry three-pointer. Or Mia Hamm inspiring a whole generation of girls to come off the bleachers and onto the field.
Millions of children across the country pushing themselves toward excellence because they saw an athlete do something spectacular and they want to do it too. Or at least try. That same kind of drive is behind many of humankind’s greatest achievements.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar managed to sum up the magic of LeBron James' record-breaking achievements while giving some perspective of what is truly important, in a powerful piece of writing. His full response to Tuesday night's historic events in LA can be read here.