Basketball

James surpasses idol Jordan

LeBron scores 31 points against Denver, moving career total to 32,311

LeBron James overtook his boyhood idol and inspiration, Michael Jordan, for fourth on the NBA's all-time scoring list yesterday morning (Singapore time), making history with a driving lay-up for the Los Angeles Lakers in a home loss to the Denver Nuggets.

The 34-year-old superstar matched the Chicago Bulls legend's career total of 32,292 points with his first 12 of the game, then made history with 5min 38sec remaining in the second quarter and sank a free-throw to complete a three-point play.

"A lot of stuff I've done in my career - this ranks right up there at the top with winning the championship," James said.

"It's just crazy, to be honest. It's beyond crazy."

During the next time-out, James went to the bench and buried his head in a towel, appearing to cry while a video tribute played on the scoreboard and he reflected upon the achievement of surpassing the icon he emulated.

"It was very emotional. A lot of things were going on inside me at the time. I didn't want to show what was going on behind that towel," he said.

Denver, led by Will Barton's 23 points, defeated the Lakers 115-99 to pull within a game of the Golden State Warriors for the Western Conference lead. The Nuggets (43-21) closed with a 26-12 run to foil a Lakers rally.

But the night belonged to James, who drew "Thank You MJ 23" on his shoes.

"For a kid from Akron, Ohio who needed inspiration and some type of positive influence, MJ was that guy for me. I watched him from afar, wanted to be like MJ," James said.

"My friends and I, all we ever talked about was MJ. He was everything. Some days, you don't even think you're going to make it to the next day because of the way things are going.

"Hopefully, I can inspire the next kid like myself."

Jordan and James are often compared as the best players in NBA history. James wears the same No. 23 worn by Jordan and recalled being 15 when he first met his idol.

"It was like meeting Jesus. That's what meeting MJ was like, because I never thought I'd ever meet him," James said.

"He was like lightning in a bottle for me. MJ had a lot to do with me making it out (of poverty) as well as my mother.

"But Mike had no idea what he was doing for a kid growing up a 45-minute flight from Chicago when he was doing all that."

James finished with 31 points, moving his fourth-best NBA career total to 32,311, and added seven rebounds and seven assists for the Lakers (30-35).

James, the top scorer among active players, made his points in 1,190 games compared to 1,072 for Jordan.

The next target for James would be retired Lakers star guard Kobe Bryant, who is third on the NBA career list with 33,643 points.

Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar holds the NBA points record with 38,387, with long-time Utah Jazz great Karl Malone second on 36,928.

On his current pace, James figures to pass Bryant next season and could overtake Abdul-Jabbar by the end of his Lakers contract in the 2021-22 campaign if he stays healthy.

James hit two three-pointers in the first quarter, added a lay-in and jumper to match Jordan early in the second and then broke the record soon after.

"It was a pretty awesome moment," Lakers coach Luke Walton said.

"Knowing that moment was a few minutes ahead of him, I think that did something to him, nerve-racking, that he doesn't feel normally at the start of a game." - AFP

OTHER RESULTS: Charlotte 84 Miami 91, Washington 132 Dallas 123, Detroit 131 Minnesota 114, Atlanta 104 San Antonio 111, Brooklyn 113 Cleveland 107, Chicago 108 Philadelphia 107, New Orleans 104 Utah 114, Phoenix 107 New York 96, Sacramento 109 Boston 111

Basketball