How James Breaks a Tomahawk Dunk: A Memorandum to LeBron Abdul-Jabbar in the Los Angeles Lakers
His accomplishments include four NBA Championships and four league most valuable player awards. Silver released a statement congratulating James “on breaking one of the most hallowed records in all of sports.”
Few things in basketball have been consistently as thrilling over the years as watching James drive down the lane, barrel past defenders and finish with a trademark tomahawk dunk.
Abdul-Jabbar’s letter came hours after James passed Abdul-Jabbar’s career 38,387 points on Tuesday night in front of the LA Lakers home crowd. The NBA paused the game so Abdul-Jabbar, himself a Lakers legend, could appear on court alongside James.
“Everybody that’s ever been a part of this run with me the last … 20-plus years, I just want to say I thank you so much, because I wouldn’t be me without y’all.”
The record fulfills one more promise that James seemed to hold when he made the jump from high school to the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers as a highly touted 18-year-old hoops prodigy in 2003 – a year after a Sports Illustrated cover story dubbed him “The Chosen One.”
“It’s a towering achievement that speaks to his sustained excellence over 20 seasons in the league. The statement states that, as of yet, his basketball history is still being written, as he continues to play at an elite level.
When O’Neal pressed, James said: “I am going to take myself against anybody who has played this game. Everyone is going to decide which one of their favorites is their favorite. I know what to bring to the table and what to do on the floor.
“It’s just all about my mind. If my mind is still into it, if I’m still motivated to go out and try to compete for championships, because I feel like that’s what I can still do for any group of guys, for any franchise. I can go out there and still help win multiple championships or win a championship.”
He credited great teammates and great coaches that were able to allow him to be himself, and said the scoring record was something he never made a goal of.
“I want to personally thank you LeBron for trusting & believing in me & the Lakers in 2018 … Everything you said you would do, you’ve done; led the Lakers to a championship, elevated the Lakers brand, & gave back to the city of LA!” Johnson tweeted.
It wasn’t until nearly nine months after Abdul-Jabbar wrested the record away from Chamberlain that LeBron James was born. Abdul-Jabbar used his sky-hook to keep amassing points until he retired in 1989, at age 42.
LeBron James: a superstar at the end of his 33-year NBA career. A special player that played in Cleveland, Los Angeles, and Los Angeles
“Seeing my family and friends, the people that’s been around me since I started this journey to the NBA, definitely very emotional right there,” James said.
The shot broke the record and James’ sons burst out of their seats when the points were scored. James’ daughter, Zhuri, 8, as well as his wife, Savannah, and mother, Gloria, were seen celebrating.
Phil Knight, the CEO of Nike, presented James with a commemorative plaque. James’ former teams, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Miami Heat, sent their felicitations.
“I’ve been quoted on saying it’s hard to be LeBron James, or any superstar, or any entertainment, sport, athletic or business industry, because all eyes are on you. But he’s handled it extremely well.”
The first two NBA titles in Miami and Los Angeles were both won by James, but the second one in Cleveland was his greatest victory as he lead the Cavs to the Larry O.
Many people, fans and pundits alike do not believe scoring has ever been James’ best attribute, which makes the latest feat all the more impressive.
This season, James has endured more losing than at most points in his career, with the Lakers mired in the lower half of the Western Conference. His star teammate Anthony Davis has missed significant time due to a stress injury to his right foot.
“I mean, he’s as special as it gets,” two-time NBA All Star Joakim Noah, who faced James multiple times over a 13-year career, told CNN Sport. “A great player.
“We had a lot of competitive moments and it was always about trying to get past ‘that guy.’ There were some good moments and some bad moments, but he is at a point in his career where he still has the ability to dominate the game, while being that invested in the work that it takes to be at the top.
“What’s unbelievable about that is his scoring is probably not his best thing, you know, he’s a better distributor, he’s a pass-first guy so to be able to lead the NBA in scoring and be a pass-first guy, it says a lot about his dominance.”
The 38-year-old ranks 10th in games played, fourth in assists, ninth in steals, second in field goals made, 10th in three-pointers made and fourth in free throws made.
James still looks like a good player years later at the age of 38, not only due to his amazing basketball skills, but also because of his remarkable longevity, as evidenced by the fact he is still playing at a high level in his mid-40s.
In his post-match interview, James joked that Smith Jr. had made him feel “old as crap.” Despite his Cleveland Cavaliers losing on that night in Sacramento, James still posted 25 points, six rebounds, nine assists and four steals in his NBA debut.
Such was the unprecedented hype around James while he was playing for St. Vincent – St. Mary High School in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, that he signed a seven-year, $90 million contract with Nike on May 22, 2003, before he had even played an NBA game.
His high school basketball games were always packed to the rafters and regularly moved to the bigger home arena of the University of Akron, while some were even shown on national television and pay-per-view.
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“I don’t think we should be surprised. I think we should congratulate him and celebrate him as much as possible. He will not put on many shows in the future and you should still enjoy them.
He has decided not to play, but I am enjoying the show and I wish we could have played against one another.
He was a part of many seminal NBA moments, such as the “blocked by James” commentary from Mike Breen in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals and the “silentr” celebration after a win against Golden State in 2014).
When they were playing together, Irving said he saw this when he hit the championship winning shot. “His ability to prepare himself mentally, spiritually, emotionally, game to game, day to day.
NBA fans might have Abdul-Jabbar as one of the other players on the NBA Mount Rushmore, if they so chose, with Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, and others making up the remaining spots.
James and Abdul-Jabbar are vastly different players from similar eras, but they have similarities, according to Dumars.
His current contract with the Los Angeles Lakers runs until the end of the 2024/25 season – James has regularly stated he wants to play at least one year with his son, Bronny, who will likely enter the NBA draft in 2024 – and this year he has continued to set personal and league records.
Against the Los Angeles Clippers last month, he hit a career-high nine three-pointers in a game, while his inclusion in this year’s All Star game takes his number of All-Star appearances to 11, tying Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time record.
With his 46 points in that game against the Clippers, the Akron native also became the first player in NBA history to achieve the frankly ludicrous feat of scoring 40+ points against all 30 teams in the league.
James’ personality, marketability and, most importantly, his electric talent as a basketball player have made his name synonymous with the sport. In the same way Roger Federer transcended tennis, Tiger Woods golf and Cristiano Ronaldo football, even non-sports fans know the name LeBron James.
The longevity of James and Abdul-Jabbar means it will be very difficult for players to break the record again.
“Listen, the game evolves, things change,” he said. “They don’t stay. It might take a while, but can someone come and do it? Someone can come and do it. But they’re going to have to be great for 20 years and that’s the thing with LeBron and Kareem, like 20 years.
“You have to be great that long and so are there people who are talented enough to do it? Yes. Can they stay healthy for 20 years to do that? That’s what’s going to determine it.”
In the letter, Abdul-Jabbar wrote about comments he made about other athletes, including Magic Johnson and James, in the months preceding the new record. Abdul-Jabbar didn’t think people were correct to assume he wouldn’t be happy for James.
“It’s as if I won a billion dollars in a lottery and 39 years later someone won two billion dollars,” Abdul-Jabbar wrote. “How would I feel? I am happy that the next person won as well. His winning does not affect my winning.
While Abdul-Jabbar admitted he may feel differently had someone broken his record even a decade after he did, he said he no longer feels that way now. Abdul-Jabbar left the NBA 34 years ago, but is still focused on his family and social activism.
“If I had a choice of having my scoring record remain intact for another hundred years or spend one afternoon with my grandchildren, I’d be on the floor in seconds stacking Legos and eating Uncrustables,” he wrote.
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James said earlier that the two athletes don’t have a relationship. James is 38 years old while Abdul-Jabbar is 75, and the retired athlete blamed his introverted personality.
Abdul-Jabbar had previously made comments about James. James made comments about the vaccine for the swine flu. Abdul-Jabbar said that he has written a lot of praise for the player and continues to do so.