LeBron James becomes the first NBA player to eclipse 40,000 career points

LOS ANGELES — LeBron James has become the first player in NBA history to score 40,000 career points, eclipsing the plateau with a left-handed layup at the 10:39 mark of the second quarter of the Los Angeles Lakers’ matchup against the Denver Nuggets on Saturday at Crypto.com Arena.

Play continued until the Lakers called a timeout with 9:16 remaining in the half. The team honored James’ accomplishment on the jumbotron.

James, already the league’s all-time leading scorer after passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387 career points) on Feb. 7, 2023, said Thursday that reaching the 40,000-point mark would be “pretty cool.”

“No one has ever done it,” James said. “And for me to be in this position at this point and time in my career, I think it’s pretty cool. Does it sit at the top of the things I’ve done in my career? No. But does it mean something? Of course. Absolutely. Why wouldn’t it?

“To be able to accomplish things in this league, with the greatest players to ever play in this league, the NBA, this has been a dream of mine. And to hit feats and have milestones throughout my career, they all mean something to me. Absolutely. Obviously, there’s a pecking order of which ones are higher than others, but absolutely. I would be lying to you if I said it doesn’t mean anything. Because it absolutely does.”

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James entered Saturday’s game just nine points shy of 40,000. This season, he’s averaging 25.3 points, 7.1 rebounds and 7.9 assists to go along with shooting splits of 52.5 percent from the field, 40.8 percent from 3 and 73.6 percent from the free-throw line. That production is unprecedented for both a 39-year-old and a player in his 21st season. The previous scoring high for a player in his 21st season or later was 7.4 points per game by Vince Carter in 2018-19.

“Nothing amazes me anymore with that guy,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said pregame. “You just come to assume and expect that these great things that he’s doing. … But just hopefully at some point it sinks in that we’re not gonna see this for a lot longer. And (we) have to appreciate him while he’s here. For all the comparisons to players that have played before him or players that are currently playing … just appreciate him for what he’s given to the game, what he continues to give to the game and his knowledge, his performance. I’m honored to be able to coach him and see it firsthand.”

James has been the youngest player in NBA history to hit every 1,000-point milestone. The four-time champion, four-time Finals MVP and four-time MVP has been remarkably durable and consistent, ranking in the top 20 in points per game in all 21 seasons of his career.

“I never thought about getting the scoring record,” James said Thursday. “It just happened organically. I played the game the right way and went out and played the game and let the game come to me and the scoring record happened organically for me. It was never a goal of mine when I came into the league, like I wanted to be the all-time leading scorer. But I’m still playing. And I can still score the ball so it’s going to go up until I’m done playing.”

James extended his NBA-record double-digit scoring streak to 1,205 games on Saturday. The last time he scored single digits in a game was on Jan. 5, 2007 — when he was 22 years old.

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(Photo: Adam Pantozzi / NBAE via Getty Images)

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