LeBron James made his historic moment befitting of his exceptional career.
James came into Saturday’s game against the Wizards with a nagging left knee injury, fresh off a 45-minute performance the night prior. With a trip to Cleveland, near his hometown of Akron, on Monday, it lined up perfectly for him to rest his knee and sit out.
Instead, the 37-year-old put on one of his signature performances.
He scored 15-straight second quarter points for the Lakers, which launched him into second place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list and ahead of Karl Malone. He finished the night with 38 points, and despite the Wizards’ 127-119 win, it was a moment both Lakers and Wizards fans could appreciate.
“Just a signature performance in a game where he passes one of the greats and becomes the second all-time leading scorer in the history of the game,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “It’s really impressive, I’m super happy for him and it’s awesome.”
James caught fire in the second frame and, for whatever the Wizards threw at him defensively, it wasn’t enough to slow him down. He heated up from 3-point land and hit a few ridiculous shots before his lay-up pushed him into second place.
“Just to be a part of this league for as many as I’ve been a part of it and be linked with some of the greatest to play this game, guys that I’ve either watched or studied or read about, or aspired to be like, I’m honestly just lost for words for it,” James said.
The moment called for a standing ovation, and the jumbotron at Capital One Arena showcased the milestone before a packed house. The game stopped for a brief moment, which allowed everyone in the arena to applaud James for his accomplishment.
"He had another milestone, which is incredible,” Kristaps Porzingis said. “We have to appreciate him while he's here and still playing and putting up those kind of numbers and playing at this level, which is absolutely out of this world. Hat off to him and what he's been able to do in his career.”
Despite James’ outstanding night, though, the Lakers’ offense was inept when James wasn’t on the floor. He and Russell Westbrook combined for 60 points, as well as 26 of the team’s 48 made field goals.
That still didn’t diminish the historic night for James, at least not for his teammates.
“To be able to play the game at a high level for so many years, and to be able to embrace everything that’s came his way along his journey, it’s an amazing feature just to witness overall and to see him constantly keep climbing up the ladder,” Westbrook said. “That’s pretty crazy to see that he’s able to have that many points over so many years. It’s a great accomplishment.”
It was a unique night at Capital One Arena, and while the Wizards left with a win, many in attendance will remember seeing James move into second place for years down the line.
“I remember when I was younger I used to look at the list and be like, ‘Dang, nobody catching Karl Malone, nobody catching Kareem,’” Carmelo Anthony said. “Take your hat off to LeBron for what he’s able to do and what he’s been doing.”