SPORTS DIGEST: LeBron James is now king of all NBA scorers

By Don Wanlass

Contributing Writer

He started to be known as King James while still in high school, a basketball phenom out of Akron, Ohio, who was the number one pick in the NBA draft in 2003.

He now is King James as in king of all NBA scorers. James scored 38 points Feb. 7 to break Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record of 38,387 career points.

As befits the Lakers’ season, his 38 points were not enough, as the Lakers lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder, 133-130.

The record-breaking shot was patented LeBron, a fadeaway jumper with 10 seconds left in the third quarter. It gave him 36 points for the game. Unfortunately, he scored only two more points in the fourth quarter and the Lakers were unable to slow down the Thunder. They didn’t help matters by turning the ball over 20 times, six by Russell Westbrook.

With all eyes on James, Anthony Davis practically took the night off, scoring a lackluster 13 points and grabbing eight rebounds in a disinterested 30 minutes.

Abdul-Jabbar, who broke Wilt Chamberlain’s record of 31,419 points on April 5, 1984 — nine months before James was born — was on hand to see his record broken and posed for pictures with James during a 10-minute ceremony that followed the record-breaking moment.

Also on hand for the game were Denzel Washington, Jay-Z, Bad Bunny, LL Cool J, Usher and Andy Garcia. 

Lakers legends James Worthy, Bob McAdoo and Magic Johnson, also were in attendance, along with Dwyane Wade, who played with James on two NBA championship teams with the Miami Heat.

“I just played the game as it is supposed to be played tonight, as I’ve always done,” James told reporters after the game. “Didn’t press myself. … When it comes to the record I felt pretty good, good rhythm. To break the record, I was able to get to a good spot on the floor where I am really comfortable with and get to one of my patented fadeaway shots.”

He also paid homage to NBA greats Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Oscar Robertson, Elgin Baylor, and Johnson and Abdul-Jabbar.

“I could be up here all night talking about these great legends,” he said. “For me personally it’s an honor to just be named with the greats, being in the conversation with the greats who played this game before me and some of the greats that’s playing right now.”

By breaking Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time scoring record, James restarted conversations over who is the all-time best basketball player. For many people over the last 20 years, that has been Michael Jordan, who led the Bulls to six NBA titles in an eight-year stretch in the 1990s. 

But if winning is the most important factor, it would have to be Boston Celtics’ center Bill Russell, who won 11 title in 13 years (he also won two NCAA titles and an Olympic Gold Medal).

Chamberlain was the most physically dominating player the game has ever seen and Abdul-Jabbar won five titles and six most valuable players awards in a 20-year career that combined the best of Chamberlain and Russell.

James has won four titles in his 20-year career that figures to last at least a couple of more.

If he stays healthy, he should go past the 40,000-point mark sometime next year. He already is the only person in league history with more than 10,000 rebounds and assists.

He may be the best physical specimen the NBA has seen since Chamberlain retired and over the years has guarded players at all five positions on the court.

So within a week of the retirement of Tom Brady, considered to be the greatest of all time among football players, James almost has cemented his legacy as the greatest of all time in the NBA.

If he manages to get this Lakers team into the payoffs this season, that might be the final determining factor.

SUPER BOWL LVII: By setting the NBA all-time scoring record, James did something amazing, even if it lasted just one day: he pushed the Super Bowl to the back burner. NFL executives could not have been pleased with that.

Still, we have what looks to be an appealing Super Bowl coming up Feb. 12 in Glendale, Arizona, with the Kansas City Chiefs battling the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Eagles come into the game as slight favorites, possibly because no one knows how badly Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes hurt his ankle three weeks ago. Both teams come into the game with 14-3 records.

The key to the game will be which team plays the best defense, because both teams can score. The Eagles have a better running game, but nobody closes games better than Mahomes.

If the Chiefs have the ball with two minutes to play within seven points of the Eagles, I will put my money on Mahomes.

That said, the Eagles have been dominant in the playoffs thus far. They blew out the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers by a cumulative score of 69-14. 

The Chiefs won their two playoffs games by seven and three points, respectively. They know how to win close games.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who used to coach the Eagles, has been in the Super Bowl spotlight before. Eagles coach Nick Sirianni is in his second year as a head coach.

He served as an assistant coach with the Chiefs from 2009 to 2012. He was not retained by the Chiefs when Reid was hired prior to the 2013 season.

Sirianni then coached with the Chargers and the Indianapolis Colts before being hired by the Eagles for the 2021 season after they fired Doug Pederson three years after he led the Eagles to the Super Bowl title.

On the field, the Eagles are led by Jalen Hurts, a most valuable player candidate who threw for 3,701 yards and 22 touchdowns this season with only six interceptions. He missed two games in December with an injured shoulder.

Hurts also gained 760 yards on the ground this season with 13 touchdowns. 

Running back Miles Sanders gained 1,269 yards rushing this season with 11 touchdowns, giving the Eagles a more balanced attack than the Chiefs.

The Eagles also have the best pass rush in football, which will be a major test for Mahomes and his injured ankle. Mahomes obviously was favoring the ankle in the Chiefs 23-20 win over Cincinnati that put them in the Super Bowl. 

His ability to avoid the pass rush and throw on the run are two of the things that make him a great quarterback. If he has to stay in the pocket, it limits the Chiefs offense and also makes him a sitting duck for the Eagles pass rush.

I missed on both my picks on the conference championship games two weeks ago, so take this with a grain of salt. I’m picking the Chiefs and the guile of head coach Andy Reid to prevail over the Eagles in a Super Bowl that will be fun to watch, have a lot of scoring and come down to the last minute.

The Chiefs will win it, 35-31.

 

City News Service contributed to this story.

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