Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Reflects on His Record Being Broken and Past Tension with LeBron

Lisa Collins

This week, LeBron James, 38, eclipsed NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s longstanding record scoring record after racking up an all-time points high of 38,388, breaking the record of 38,387, that had stood for nearly 40 years.

Well, Abdul-Jabbar, now 75, had some thoughts on the matter and his relationship—or lack of it—with James.

He began the online letter writing about how careful he was in approaching it, understanding the importance of getting the words right and the intense emotions driving them.

“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,” LeBron writes. “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.”

He went on to reference a comment made by James when asked his thoughts leading up to breaking the record, to which James replied: “No thoughts, and no relationship.”

“Ouch”, wrote Abdul-Jabbar, who went on to confess that the lack of a relationship between he and James was his fault.

“I think the main reason that I never formed a bond with LeBron (again, entirely my fault) is simply our age difference,” Abdul-Jabbar explains. “I established my scoring record in 1984—the year LeBron was born. When he started to make a name for himself, I was already pretty removed from the NBA world.”

These days, Abdul-Jabbar is passionate about building a social legacy, advocating on behalf of the marginalized and writing commentary in defense of democracy and commends James on his passion for social justice.

“While it’s true that I have taken a couple minor jabs at him over vaccine protocols—which in my mind was the kind of nudging one teammate does with another—I know that LeBron is too accomplished, mature, and savvy to hold a grudge over something so petty,” Abdul-Jabbar continued. “That’s why I don’t want my fans to in any way tarnish or equivocate his enormous achievement. This is all about LeBron doing something no one else has done, about scoring more points than anyone has been able to in 75 years. There are no “yeah, buts,” just praise where it is rightfully and righteously due.”

So, in conclusion, here’s how the formerly competitive Hall of Famer-turned-social-advocate views sports records being broken.

“Whenever a sports record is broken—including mine—it’s a time for celebration. It means someone has pushed the boundaries of what we thought was possible to a whole new level. And when one person climbs higher than the last person, we all feel like we are capable of being more…That is the magic of sports. To see something seemingly impossi­ble, reminding us that if one person can do it, then we all somehow share in that achievement.”

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