Lebron James Passes Kareem in Scoring With An Exceptional Performance — But Was It Enough To Secure GOAT Status in the Public Eye?

Lebron James shooting one basket of his 38,390 points. Photo credit to Erick Drost on Flickr.

It’s the third quarter with 20 seconds left on the clock. Wearing the number 0, point guard Russell Westbrook looks to find his teammate Lebron James, dressed in the Los Angeles Lakers yellow and purple uniforms, sporting a headband — an accessory he was once known for during his earlier years in the National Basketball Association (NBA). 

At the top of the key, James receives the pass and begins his dribble as his teammates clear out of his way. Shouldering into his defender, James backs down the opposing Oklahoma City Thunder player before stepping to the side and shooting a fading shot from the top of the key — swish

The crowd goes wild. The clock is stopped, and presses and cameras surround the newly crowned all-time scoring leader of the NBA. The unbreakable record has been broken.

Last Tuesday, Feb. 7, Los Angeles Lakers player Lebron James scored 38 points, propelling him to the No. 1 spot in most points scored all-time in the NBA with 38,390, passing the previous record holder Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s total of 38,387. 

As a feat that many thought would never be achieved, James’ stellar performance had the sports world debating once again: Did James’ new title as the scoring “King” officially cement his legacy as the greatest player of all time? 

Coby Barnes of Point Loma Nazarene University’s men’s basketball team weighed in on the significance of James’ performance.

“I was watching with some of my friends on the team. … It was weird because it’s like a moment in history your kids could ask you about one day,” Barnes said. “It’s getting harder to deny that Lebron is getting closer to that top spot after passing Kareem. People never thought that record would be broken, but now it is and he still has a few years left in the tank.”

As the debate around the GOAT status arose, as it typically does when discussing basketball achievements, Barnes paused with a smile before giving his opinion of James’ ranking when compared against all time great basketball players of the NBA.

“It’s hard. I didn’t get to watch MJ on a nightly basis … but I would go Lebron one, MJ two and Kobe three,” he said.

Barnes’ ranking of James as the greatest basketball player is not an unpopular opinion, but PLNU men’s basketball assistant coach Justin Downer seemed to have a differing stance on the significance of James’ recent performance. 

“We’re leading down the path to, ‘Who’s the greatest player of all time?’ To me, someone’s got to actually define that criteria,” said coach Downer. “When you’re talking about the best singular basketball player of all time, this, to me, has no impact on that.” 

Coach Downer has different criteria for determining GOAT rankings.

“I just personally think there’s an eye test. I think there’s a feeling that goes into it. Michael Jordan in ‘06 or Shaquille O’Neal in 2001— there’s no version of Lebron that was ever better than those two guys,” coach Downer said.

PLNU men’s basketball head coach Matthew Logie shared a similar sentiment in an email interview with The Point. 

“I’m not sure how (if at all) it will impact Lebron’s legacy considering he’s been firmly established as one of the all-time greats for a while. … I tend to value ‘winning’ over ‘stat-based’ arguments so for me, I have to take Michael Jordan #1,” he wrote.

Whether or not the sports world will ever come to a consensus on who gets to be titled the greatest basketball player of all time is unknown. Regardless of the opinion held of James’ legacy, the significance of the moment seemed paramount to sports fans. 

“I have a 10-year old son who loves basketball,” said coach Logie. “It was one of those historic moments a basketball family just couldn’t miss!”

Written By: Joshua Scott