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How many points behind LeBron are you? Probably the same as me. Also today: deadline eve, Kyrie and more.
LeBron sums it up: ‘F—, man’
Imagine thinking you could become the NBA’s all-time points leader. It doesn’t even make sense to think that ambitiously. But that’s what LeBron James did last night in his 1,410th game, when he dropped 38 in a three-point loss to OKC. While we can debate standings and playoff positioning, the result of the game was irrelevant.
In the third quarter, James received the ball in the middle of the floor, dribbled against Kenrich Williams, took a stepback jumper near the free-throw line and knocked it down — his 35th and 36th points to break Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record. The game stopped as all eyes focused on LeBron. More history from arguably the most historic player in NBA history.
You could see the amazement on his face. You could hear it in his words about him, especially as he summed it up with two: “F—, man.”
Even for the most confident and accomplished of players, this was special. LeBron soaked it up as his family came onto the floor, Kareem congratulated him and we had a ceremony.
For basketball nerds like me, this almost doesn’t feel real
Roughly 5,000 players made it to this league. Nobody else has ever really come close to challenging Kareem.
- Karl Malone was the previous second place scorer. At the rate Malone scored during his final season (13.2 per game), it would have taken him another three to break the record.
- Think about how many points Kobe Bryant poured in, even scoring 60 in his final game! He still finished his 20-year career nearly 5,000 points shy.
- Michael Jordan’s retirements kept him from thinking about such a feat, though he probably believes he can give anyone a bucket today.
LeBron wasn’t doddering toward this record, grinding out 7.8 points per game. He broke through it like a superhero crashing through walls. He’s averaging 30.2, something nobody his age has ever done. His 33.9 points per game since turning 38 rank second among players of every age since Dec. 30.
James was the fastest to 10,000, to 20,000 and to 30,000. He broke the record 150 fewer games than Kareem. Next, LeBron will likely get to 40,000, then possibly put this thing out of reach forever.
More on the record:
Elsewhere last night:
- Cam Thomas did it again, scoring 43 in a Brooklyn loss. The youngest player to ever score at least 40 points in three straight games, he’s stepped up big time in the wake of Kyrie Irving’s departure to Dallas.
- Devin Booker scored 19 in the Suns’ win over Brooklyn, his first game since Christmas. Phoenix went 10-11 during his absence from him.
- The Wolves were down 30 … after one quarter. Denver beat them 146-112. Minnesota’s now a game up on 10th-place Utah as we near the All-Star break. Speaking of…
The Latest From Shams
League sources tell The Athletic that Trail Blazers high flyer Shaedon Sharpe will no longer participate in this year’s NBA Slam Dunk Contest at All-Star Weekend. He is doing so to focus on the second half of Portland’s season.
Sharpe will be replaced by second-year Knicks center Jericho Sims, whose 56 dunks this season trail only Mitchell Robinson (84) for the team lead.
The dunk contest takes place Feb. 18 in Salt Lake City.
One day before the buzzer
If you’ve been looking for trade action, it didn’t stop with Irving. As we lead up to Thursday’s 3 pm ET trade deadline, we’re still waiting to see if, among other things, the Raptors are going to blow things up.
Will the Jazz trade off their veterans? Is there a Lakers deal to ensure they make the playoffs? Where will Jae Crowder end up? Are John Collins, Bojan Bogdanović or OG Anunoby finding new homes?
The latest deals:
Follow all of the action with The Athletic’s NBA Trade Deadline Live Updates.
Irving speaks for the first time as a Mav
As one might expect, Irving’s Dallas intro was packed full of soundbites, including this:
“There were times throughout this process when I was in Brooklyn where I felt very disrespected and my talent — I work extremely hard at what I do. No one ever talks about my work ethics, though.”
From the outside looking in, it felt like Kyrie and the Nets’ front office often failed to be on the same page. There were suspensions, tensions and the negotiation of an extension that Irving did not appreciate. Kyrie never exceeded 54 appearances in a single Nets season over his four-year stay.
At one point, Kyrie said, “I left them in fourth place. I did what I was supposed to do. Took care of my teammates. Was incredibly selfless in my approach to leading.”
Thats one way of looking at it.
Screen Game (all times Eastern)
- Main Screen: Sixers v Celtics (7:30pm ESPN). Is it finally time Joel Embiid turns this into a bona fide rivalry? The Process is just 9-10 in the regular season against Boston, including just 4-6 in road visits.
- Second Screen: Mavs-Clippers (10pm ESPN). This is always a battle (and a war of words), but we don’t know who will play yet. Will Kyrie be there?
- League Pass Game of the Night: Warriors-Blazers (10pm). The Warriors put up 140 on OKC without Steph Curry, and now they have to keep up with Dame Time, who is averaging an NBA-high 34.5 points in his last 20 outings.
- Check the full schedule here.
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(Photo: Adam Pantozzi / Getty Images)