Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James reached another milestone on Saturday, surpassing Karl Malone to second on the all-time scoring list in the 127-119 loss to the Washington Wizards.
Stanley Johnson found James with a bounce pass halfway through the second quarter. The 37-year-old used an open lane in front of him to charge at the rim and finished the play with a layup to get his 21st points of the night — and move past Malone and his 36,928 regular-season points to become the second-best scorer in NBA history.
James finished the game with 38 points, although it wasn’t enough to beat the Wizards. Washington came back from a double-digit deficit, took the lead late, and hold onto it to snatch the win.
Despite the defeat, head coach Frank Vogel couldn’t restrain himself from marveling at James, his achievement, and overall greatness.
“Trying to separate it. It’s bittersweet, but I think it’s important to separate it,” Vogel said after the loss.
“This is a moment in time that we can’t get caught up in the pain of this loss and recognize what an incredible feat this is for LeBron and doing it faster than he did it. He just attacked the game tonight. He came in and was aggressive on both sides of the ball. Second night of a back-to-back playing with incredible energy after playing 45 minutes last night.
“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. It’s really impressive. I’m super happy for him. It’s awesome.”
Vogel added he’s always admired James — but has gotten even more respect for the forward while observing his evolution as a player in his late 30s.
“The fact it is later in his career and he’s still doing it at this level is different,” Vogel said. “Obviously, the way he’s continuing to evolve his game with the deep shooting, the turnaround fadeaway jump shot that Kobe [Bryant] and Michael [Jordan] had later in his career. Now he’s growing as a receiver.
“That part is special, but it’s just an incredible game, season and I don’t know where we’d be without him.”
James reflects on passing Malone on all-time scoring list
James now needs 1,440 points to overtake Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the best scorer of all time. But even moving up to second, he said, has been “an honor” for him and his family.
“Just to be a part of this league for as many as years I’ve been a part of it, and to be linked with some of the greats to ever play this game, guys that I’ve either watched or studied or read about or inspired to be like, obviously, I’m just at a loss for words for it,” James said.
“It’s an honor for myself, for my hometown, and for family and my friends to be able to live these moments throughout this journey, and that’s exactly what I do it for. I do it for my family, my friends, my hometown, and anybody that’s been a part of this journey throughout this run so far.”
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