‘LeBron makes me love the game again’

If you were hoping for some drama when Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James broke Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record and became the leading scorer in NBA history Tuesday, you were sorely disappointed. Abdul-Jabbar showed up for the contest, embraced James at center court and smiled as the two took pictures together.

That reaction wasn’t a guarantee, especially after James said he had “no relationship” with Abdul-Jabbar in the weeks leading up to the record-breaking night.

Abdul-Jabbar addressed that comment and revealed how he truly felt about James setting the NBA’s all-time scoring record in a lengthy Substack post Wednesday.

Abdul-Jabbar opened the post by talking about James’ ability, and praising his “drive, dedication and talent.” He credited James for being a team player over his career, one who values ​​winning and being a good teammate over individual accomplishments. Abdul-Jabbar said he had the same philosophy during his playing days.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was happy for LeBron James

Abdul-Jabbar said he was happy for James leading up to the moment he set the record. Abdul-Jabbar compared it to winning a record amount of money in the lottery, only to see someone win more money many years later.

“It’s as if I won a billion dollars in a lottery and 39 years later someone won two billion dollars. How would I feel? Grateful that I won and happy that the next person also won. His winning in no way affects my winning.”

He then addressed comments made by former teammate Magic Johnson, in which Johnson predicted Abdul-Jabbar would have a tough time watching his record be broken. Abdul-Jabbar admitted he might have felt that way in the years immediately following his retirement, but he has other priorities today.

“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.”

Abdul-Jabbar finished that portion of his post by saying, “Sorry, Earvin. I love you, brother, but this time you got it wrong.”

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 07: LeBron James, front, hugs Kareem Abdul-Jabbar after becoming the all-time NBA scoring leader, passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at 38388 points during the third quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Crypto.com Arena on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023 in Los Angeles, CA.  (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

LeBron James and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the two highest scorers in NBA history, share a moment on the court Tuesday. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar addresses his relationship with LeBron James

Finally, Abdul-Jabbar spoke about his relationship with James. Abdul-Jabbar admitted the two don’t really have a relationship, and blamed himself for that.

“LeBron said we don’t have a relationship. He’s right—and for that I blame myself. Not for anything I did, but perhaps for not making more of an effort to reach out to him. 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. For the past 15 years my focus has been less on forming new relationships than on nurturing my old friendships with people like Magic, Michael Cooper, Jerry West, and so on.”

Abdul-Jabbar also pointed to the age gap between he and James. Abdul-Jabbar set the scoring record the year James was born. By the time James reached the league, Abdul-Jabbar said he wasn’t as involved with the NBA, only going to marquee events and galas.

Abdul-Jabbar said he believes the age difference played a role in the two not being closer. He added that he viewed Kobe Bryant as a mentor to James and saw himself as, “Just an empty jersey in the rafters.” Abdul-Jabbar added, however, that he might have been able to ease some of the pressure James was facing if the two were closer.

The post ends with Abdul-Jabbar praising James as a basketball player and person. Abdul-Jabbar shared comments he made in 2020, when he said he would be happy if James broke the all-time scoring record. In the years since then, Abdul-Jabbar said his opinion of him on James has only gotten better.

He ended the post with an emphatic and definitive statement about his thoughts on James, saying, “LeBron makes me love the game again.”

“Bottom line about LeBron and me: LeBron makes me love the game again. And he makes me proud to be part of an ever-widening group of athletes who actively care about their community.”

All of that was on display Tuesday night, when Abdul-Jabbar happily passed the torch to James.

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