There’s no question that LeBron James’ climb to fourth on the National Basketball Association’s career scoring list was a singular deed that deserved significant recognition. If nothing else, it spoke of the four-time Most Valuable Player’s longevity and dependability, not to mention standing among the league’s all-time greats. Yet, his attainment of the milestone during the Lakers’ homestand against the Nuggets last Friday received a muted response at best, and not just because they had a losing record that effectively served to discount it.
To no one’s surprise, James himself was keenly aware of the weight of his feat. He referred to it in glowing terms on social media before the set-to, and even went to far as to scribble a note of thanks to the player he passed on his Air Jordan 3-inspired sneakers. Interestingly, though, the NBA itself didn’t seem too keen on hyping the occasion. Even though the second-quarter layup that netted him 32,294 points as a pro to break a tie with childhood idol Michael Jordan come with a foul whistle, league officials refused to extend the stoppage of play and allow for a more formal celebration.
Instead, James had to settle for the Lakers’ Jumbotron tribute featuring highlight reels with him mostly in jerseys other than theirs. Meanwhile, the Staples Center crowd applauded in respect, but, notably, not with reverence; needless to say, the fact that he had put up only 1,256 of those 32,294 points through 47 games for the purple and gold — and, to top it off, while in the midst of a lost season — was not lost on the Figueroa faithful. Elsewhere, acknowledgments came, but in perfunctory manner; Jordan’s own was a mere one-sentence statement.
Not that the reactions of others mattered to James. He certainly looked too beside himself to notice. In the first timeout following his monumental basket, he had to bury his head in a towel to stop the tears from flowing. He was still overcome with emotion a handful of hours later; in his post-mortem with scribes, he talked about how the achievement ranked alongside the Cavaliers’ remarkable comeback in the 2016 Finals. And he’s right to view it highly; it’s yet another feather in the proverbial cap that underscores his place in rarefied air.
There will be more mountains to climb for James. Up next is Laker legend Kobe Bryant at 33,643 points, and, barring any major injury that details him, he’s slated to take third sometime during his 2019-20 campaign. What the reception will be for him then is anybody’s guess. In any case, he really doesn’t have anything left to prove. Notwithstanding the unreasonably lofty expectations that have burdened him long before he was drafted first overall in 2003, he has lived up to promise, and more. Enough said.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.