What will be meaningful for Lakers, LeBron James this year?

Editor’s note: This is the Tuesday Oct. 18 edition of the “Game Day with Kevin Modesti” newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.

Good morning. Tonight the Lakers open a season that might be highlighted by an individual accomplishment. Maybe that says it all about this moment for L.A.’s most successful pro sports franchise. But in case it doesn’t, I’ll say more in a moment.

First, other news: The Chargers are 4-2 after beating the Broncos in overtime on Monday Night Football; columnist Mirjam Swanson looks closer at the kicker Dustin Hopkins’ heroics. The Rams began their week off dealing with another injury on the offensive line and the future of running back Cam Akers. UCLA football has gone from ignored to the national spotlight ahead of its top-10 matchup with Oregon. The Bruins basketball team also is top-10 in the season’s first AP rankings. And columnist Jim Alexander has ideas for the Dodgers, including allowing Dave Roberts more freedom to manage.

Now, on with the Lakers season, which tips off on the road against the Warriors with a new coach in Darvin Ham, a younger roster surrounding LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook, and competition from a deep Western Conference.

While Las Vegas oddsmakers see the Lakers improving to better than .500 and clawing their way back into the playoffs, the better bet is that the high point will be James breaking Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s NBA record for points in a career.

Kyle Goon, our Lakers beat writer, has calculated that if James stays healthy and scores at his 27.2 points a game lifetime clip, he’ll need 49 games to get the 1,325 more he needs to reach Abdul Jabbar’s total of 38,387.

I looked this up: Kareem is the sixth player to hold the career scoring record; he got the record while playing for the Lakers in the 1983-84 season, a year they went to the NBA Finals (and lost to the Celtics in seven games). Before him, Wilt Chamberlain got the record with 1965-66 76ers, who went to the eastern finals, Bob Pettit got it with the 1963-64 Hawks (then in St. Louis), who went to the western finals, Dolph Schayes got it with the 1957-58 Syracuse Nationals (now the 76ers), who finished second in the eastern standings, and George Mikan took it from original league record-holder Joe Fulks with the 1952-53 Lakers (of Minneapolis), who were in the middle of the franchise’s first championship threepeat.

Those Hall of Famers set the NBA’s most cherished record as leaders of good or great teams.

It would be a shame if LeBron did it as a member of a mediocre team.

Southern California sports fans are used to the idea that achievements can be devalued. We hear that the Dodgers’ franchise-record 111 wins in the regular season mean less because they were one and done in the playoffs. We fight the perception that the Dodgers’ 2020 World Series championship is tainted by having been won in a COVID-19-shortened season. Same with LeBron’s and the Lakers’ 2020 NBA title, won in a short season and in a playoff bubble.

If – when – James takes the record from Abdul Jabbar, the accomplishment shouldn’t be diminished even if the Lakers are struggling at the time.

But circumstances like that could make the career scoring crown both the cap on an all-time-great career and a reminder of James’ and the Lakers’ decline.

In March 2019, when James passed his idol Michael Jordan on the points chart, the Southern California News Group papers’ online headline didn’t forget it happened “in Lakers’ loss to Nuggets.” Kyle Goon’s story noted: “The strange part for the Lakers (30-35) is that such history is being written in what have become meaningless games,” with the team suffering the fourth of what would become five losses in a row.

James deserves better this time. Lakers fans deserve better this time.

The Lakers already own the career scoring mark, thanks to Kareem. What they need is a return to glory for the team, led by LeBron.

While he calls the scoring record “a huge thing,” the Lakers’ 37-year-old star among stars no doubt realizes it’s not what L.A. fans want most from him.

A record 38,388 points won’t count less if the Lakers are losing this season, but it will count more if they’re winning.


Lakers meet the defending champion Warriors in San Francisco (7 p.m., TNT), opening the Minneapolis-Los Angeles franchise’s 75th season in the NBA. The Clippers open Thursday.

Ducks, 0-2 on their eastern trip, now face their second game in two nights when they play the Devils in Newark (4 p.m., BSSC).

Kings visit the Red Wings in Detroit (6:30 p.m., ESPN), trying to build on their first win of the season against the Wild.


I asked where the blame belongs for the Dodgers’ early exit from the playoffs.

Reader Joe Cabral identified a problem: “Consistently pulling high paid starting pitchers too early in games. Opposing batters then get used to the relievers they see every night.”


What – or who – will determine if the Lakers improve on last season, when they went 33-49 and missed the playoffs? Respond by email to or on Twitter at @KevinModesti.


No, it was the Broncos who Chargered. L.A. 19, Denver 16.

— Jim_Alexander (@Jim_Alexander) October 18, 2022

– Jim Alexander watching the Chargers late in the kind of close game they often have found a way to lose.

– and Alexander 40 minutes later after the Chargers won on Dustin Hopkins’ 39-yard field goal in overtime.

1,000 WORDS

Hero’s treatment: Chargers kicker Dustin Hopkins is carried off the field by teammates after he came through the game-winning field goal against the Broncos last night at SoFi Stadium, his fourth field goal of the game, despite playing with a hamstring injury. (Photo by Will Lester of the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin and SCNG)


Thanks for reading the newsletter. Send suggestions, comments and questions by email at and via Twitter @KevinModesti.

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