LeBron James overtook Michael Jordan to move into fourth place on the NBA all-time scoring list Wednesday with a driving layup in the second quarter against visiting Denver.
The Los Angeles Lakers playmaker, who had matched the Chicago Bulls legend’s career total of 32,292 with his first 12 points, made history on the layup with 5:38 remaining in the quarter and sank a free throw to complete a 3-point play.
During the next timeout, James went to the bench and buried his head in a towel, appearing to cry while a video tribute played on the scoreboard and he reflected upon the achievement of surpassing his boyhood idol.
“Cant even front,” James tweeted about 90 minutes before tipoff. “This is going to be UNREAL!! Wow man.”
The 34-year-old American forward, the top scorer among active players, made his points in 1,190 games compared to 1,072 for Jordan with the Bulls and Washington.
The next target for James would be retired Lakers star guard Kobe Bryant, who is third on the NBA career list with 33,643 points.
Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar holds the NBA points record with 38,387, with long-time Utah great Karl Malone ranked second on 36,928.
On his current pace, James figures to pass Bryant next season and could overtake Abdul-Jabbar by the end of his Lakers contract in the 2021-22 campaign if he stays healthy.
James went 2-of-6 from the floor in the first quarter and 0-4 from the free throw line in the opening quarter, but added a lay-in and jumper to match Jordan early in the second quarter and break the record attacking the basket, a trademark move in his career.
James has more assists and 20-point games than any other top-five scorer.
Jordan and James are often compared as the best players in NBA history.
James wears the same No. 23 worn by Jordan.
“I wear the number because of Mike. I fell in love with the game because of Mike,” James said before the game.
“I just take all the accomplishments as they come. It’s just an honor to have my name be mentioned among all the greats.”
Jordan played 15 NBA seasons and was a five-time NBA Most Valuable Player who won six NBA crowns in the 1990s with the Bulls.
James, in his 16th NBA campaign, is a four-time NBA Most Valuable Player and three-time NBA champion as well as a 15-time All-Star.
While Jordan went 6-0 in the finals, James is only 3-6 but has reached the past eight NBA Finals, four each with Miami and Cleveland before joining the Lakers last July.
– LaVine leads Bulls win –
In Wednesday’s other NBA games, Zach LaVine scored 39 points, making the decisive layup with 1.6 seconds remaining, and host Chicago edged Philadelphia 108-107.
“I saw the lane and I took it,” LaVine said. “I know I need to come out and make big baskets.”
Jimmy Butler scored 22 points against his former club in a losing cause.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 32 points to power the San Antonio Spurs over host Atlanta 111-104 while Brooklyn reserve Spencer Dinwiddie netted 28 points to lead the Nets over visiting Cleveland 113-107.
Bradley Beal scored 30 points to lead host Washington over Dallas 132-123 despite 31 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists for Mavericks star Luka Doncic of Slovenia.
Canada’s Kelly Olynyk scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead Miami’s 91-84 win at Charlotte while Andre Drummond scored 31 points to lead host Detroit’s 131-114 win over Minnesota.
Frenchman Rudy Gobert had 22 points and 13 rebounds to help visiting Utah over New Orleans 114-104 while host Phoenix beat New York 107-96 in a matchup of the NBA’s losingest clubs.