LeBron James was a man on a mission Tuesday.
Needing 36 points to become the NBA’s all-time regular-season scoring leader, the Lakers superstar went on a scoring spree, clinching the record in the third quarter Tuesday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder in front of a jubilant home crowd in Los Angeles.
James had 20 points by halftime, and racked up another 16 in the third quarter, setting the record on a fade-away jumper with 10.9 seconds left in the quarter.
Another Lakers legend, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had held the scoring record for nearly four decades, with 38,387 career points. Abdul-Jabbar set the NBA record in 1984, topping Wilt Chamberlain, and continued playing until 1989.
Abdul-Jabbar was courtside Tuesday to watch James set the mark, and in a passing-of-the-torch moment, ceremonially handed a ball over to him.
The game was stopped so the NBA could honor James, 38, who’s playing in his 20th season. James will be honored again with a larger-scale celebration at the upcoming NBA All-Star Game in Salt Lake City.
Joined by his family, a teary-eyed James addressed the cheering crowd, acknowledging Abdul-Jabbar, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and the fans. “I thank you guys so much for allowing me to be a part of something I’ve always dreamed about,” he said.
The scoring record was long thought of as untouchable. Karl Malone — now the league’s third all-time leading scorer — retired 1,459 points behind Abdul-Jabbar, while Michael Jordan finished his career more than 6,000 points shy.
James is likely to hold onto the record for a while: No active player is within 10,000 points of him.