For his entire adult life, LeBron James has thrived under pressure. A packed arena with celebrities, his entire family, and thousands of raucous Lakers fans was nothing the King couldn’t handle. In an arena packed with stars and rocked by eager fans anticipating a crowning moment in his 20-year career, James broke Kareem Abdul-Jabbar‘s NBA career scoring record Tuesday night.
“I thank you guys so much for allowing me to be a part of something I’ve always dreamed about,” James said. With every point he scored, the crowd roared in support, with Abdul-Jabbar watching from a bench seat near the baseline. In addition to James’ mother, wife, and three children, thousands of fans waited in anticipation each time he touched the ball.
A nimble stepback jumper late in the third quarter gave James the 36 points he needed to surpass Abdul-Jabbar’s record of 38,387 points. Once again, a crowd that had roared for his every basket turned wild. Four championship rings along with nearly every other honor available to a basketball player, the 38-year-old James closed in on this next moment in history with the confidence of a player who has been even better than anyone could have imagined two decades ago when he first reached the NBA as a kid from Akron, Ohio.
“We were expecting him to go all the way to Pluto, and he created his own galaxy,” said Lakers coach Darvin Ham prior to the game. James received numerous ovations before the Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder kicked off their match in Los Angeles, much earlier than usual. When he touched the ball on the Lakers’ opening possession, the fans stood, and they groaned when he missed his first two shots and chose to pass.
A sense of anticipation surrounded each Lakers possession, and James has always thrived under pressure: He hit a 3-pointer with 7:06 remaining in the first quarter for his first bucket, and he kept playing afterwards despite being elbowed in the face. A wealth of basketball history has been enshrined in this building in less than a quarter century, which has provided fans with another incredible memory.
Fans of the Los Angeles Lakers are no strangers to witnessing historic events, and they flocked to the arena to witness this once-in-a-generation achievement. It was an irresistible moment for fans such as Aaron Sanchez, one of the hundreds of Lakers faithful patiently posing in front of the statue of Abdul-Jabbar that stands in front of the Lakers’ downtown arena.
Sanchez has a set of two season tickets that he shares with friends and family. He already had the seats for Tuesday’s game months before anyone could have predicted that it would be a magical day. James turned down a friend’s offer of $200 for the Thunder seats. However, if James waited until Thursday, he would be out of luck since those seats belong to someone else.
The building was packed with dozens of celebrities, including Denzel Washington, Jay-Z, Bad Bunny, LL Cool J, Usher, and Andy Garcia, among others. Dwyane Wade, James Worthy, and Bob McAdoo were among the basketball greats who attended. Most notable among the crowd was Abdul-Jabbar, who has verbally sparred with James in public over issues that are not directly related to basketball. There was no way the Lakers legend, known to all as Cap, would miss this historical event.