What I Think About LeBron Breaking My NBA Scoring Record
Everything You Wanted to Know About LeBron and Me and the Scoring Record
I begin everything I write with a lot of apprehension because I know how hard it is to translate complex thoughts and intense emotions into the exact words that accurately express those thoughts and emotions. But this article I approach with even more trepidation because I really want to get this right. It’s important to me, to basketball fans, and to the legacy of a great player (not me).
First, the facts: LeBron James passed my scoring record and now is the leading scorer in NBA history. It takes unbelievable drive, dedication, and talent to survive in the NBA long enough to rack up that number of points when the average NBA career lasts only 4.5 years. It’s not just about putting the ball through the hoop, it’s about staying healthy and skilled enough to climb the steep mountain in ever-thinning oxygen over many years when most other players have tapped out.
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It’s also about not making scoring your obsession. Otherwise, you’re Gollum and the record is your Precious. The real goal is to win games so that you win championships because you want to please the fans who pay your salary and cheer you on game after game. Fans would rather see you win a championship than set a scoring record.
It’s also about making sure your team gets their moments to shine and thrive and pursue their own greatness. A record is nothing if you used other players’ careers as stepping stones just for self-aggrandizement. For me, I strove to play at the highest level I could in order to be a good teammate. The points—and the record—were simply a by-product of that philosophy.
I think LeBron has the same philosophy.
Second, my reaction: In the months leading up to LeBron breaking my record, so much was written about how I would feel on the day he sank that record-breaking shot that I had to laugh. I’d already written several times stating exactly how I felt so there really wasn’t much to speculate about. It’s as if I won a billion dollars in a lottery and 39 years later someone won two billion dollars. How would I feel? Grateful that I won and happy that the next person also won. His winning in no way affects my winning.
Third, the context of it all: In Jurassic Park, Jeff Goldblum’s character explains chaos theory in which a small event can have a ripple effect to create something much larger: “A butterfly can flap its wings in Peking, and in Central Park, you get rain instead of sunshine.”
That’s what I think has happened a few months ago when two NBA legends flapped their wings and a tsunami of reaction washed over the basketball world.
The first wing flap came when LeBron James, who was on the verge of breaking my NBA scoring record, was asked what his thoughts were about me and what kind of relationship we had. His answer: “No thoughts, and no relationship.” Ouch. I’ll return to that in a moment.
The second butterfly making it rain is my long-time friend and ex-teammate Earvin “Magic” Johnson. He opined on a podcast that “If I got to say it, we got to be honest. And the fact that it’s a dude that’s playing for the Lakers, too… I think it’ll be a hard pill to swallow… I think he thought he was going to have [the record] forever.” Double ouch.