LeBron James: The rise and rise of the NBA's all-time leading scorer

The rise of LeBron James
The rise of LeBron James Copyright Ashley Landis/AP Photo
Copyright Ashley Landis/AP Photo
By Theo FarrantAP
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LeBron James has made history, becoming the NBA's all-time career leading scorer, overtaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's 39-year-old record. Let's take a look at his rise to superstardom and his mark on the cultural map.


LeBron James, widely considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time, has become the NBA's all-time career leading scorer, passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's 39-year-old record.

With a total of 38,390 points, James surpassed Abdul-Jabbar's long-standing record of 38,387.

In a closely contested game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the 38-year old broke the benchmark with a fade-away jump shot over Kenrich Williams at the end of the third quarter.

The basket was followed by a brief break in play to mark the achievement, where an emotional James addressed the crowd with a microphone. 

"Everybody that has ever been a part of this run with me the last 20-plus years, I want to say thank you so much because I wouldn't be me without all you. You all helped. Your passion and sacrifices helped me to get to this point," he said.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ceremoniously handed over the ball to James in front of a lively crowd, that included notable figures such as tennis great John McEnroe, musicians Jay-Z, LL Cool J, and Bad Bunny, boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr, and actor Denzel Washington. 

In honour of LeBron's latest major achievement, we thought we'd take a look at his extraordinary journey, from high school prodigy to cultural icon. 

From kid prodigy to the NBA

LeBron James drives toward the basket against Brush players at the Cleveland Convocation Center in Cleveland, 2002TONY DEJAK/AP

James was born on 30 December 1984, in Akron, Ohio, and from a young age, it was clear that he had a talent for basketball. 

He was a dominant force on the court, and his exceptional skills caught the attention of scouts from across the country. 

By his senior year of high school, LeBron was considered the best high school basketball player in the country, and he was labelled as the Second Coming of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. 

In 2003, he was selected first overall in the NBA draft by his hometown team the Cleveland Cavaliers, where he was expected to turn the side into a championship contender. 

And he did not disappoint. 

In his rookie season, LeBron became the youngest player in NBA history to score more than 20 points in a game, and he was named the NBA Rookie of the Year. 

Over the next few years, LeBron was soon considered one of the best players in the league.

Turning up the heat

Lynne Sladky/AP
Miami Heat's LeBron James (6) drives to the basket as Golden State Warriors' Andrew Bogut, left, defendsLynne Sladky/AP

After leading the Cavaliers to new heights, the forward joined the Miami Heat in 2010, teaming up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to form a superteam.

The move was highly controversial, as many felt that LeBron was taking the easy way out by joining forces with two other All-Stars instead of trying to win a championship on his own.

But despite the criticism from fans, LeBron once again proved his worth on the court and helped carry the Heat to four consecutive NBA Finals appearances from 2011 to 2014 and two championships in total. 

LeBron's time with the Heat was marked by some of the most memorable moments of his career, including a game-winning shot in Game 2 of the 2013 NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs, and a dominant performance in Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics.

I played baseball growing up. The way he played that night (Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals) was the closest thing to watching a no-hitter, a perfect game. We sort of nudged, sort of elbowed each other on the bench and said, “Oh my gosh, this guy’s a monster.”
Shane Battier
Miami Heat teammate of LeBron James

The return of the king

Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP
LeBron James, centre, celebrates with teammates after Game 7 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors in 2016Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

While LeBron achieved huge success with Miami Heat, he still had unfinished business in his hometown.  

In 2014, LeBron made the decision to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, just four years after leaving for the Heat. 

In his first season back with the Cavaliers, LeBron helped lead the team to the NBA Finals, where they faced off against the Golden State Warriors. Although they lost in six games, LeBron's performance was impressive, as he averaged 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game in the Finals.

The following year (2016), LeBron helped lead the team to its first-ever NBA championship. The championship was especially significant for Cleveland, as it marked the city's first major sports championship in over 50 years.

LeBron's performance in the 2016 Finals was unforgettable, as he put up 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 8.9 assists per game, and hit the game-winning shot in Game 7 to give the Cavaliers their first-ever championship.

Those years LeBron had here in Cleveland, capped by a winning a championship, cemented his legacy.
Kevin Love
Five-time All-Star and former Cleveland teammate with LeBron James

Los Angeles avenger

Ashley Landis/AP
LeBron James celebrates after scoring to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to become the NBA's all-time leading scorerAshley Landis/AP

In the summer of 2018, after spending four seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers and four seasons with the Miami Heat, LeBron decided to take his talents to LA, where he signed a four-year contract with the Los Angeles Lakers. 

LeBron's move to LA was met with great excitement, as Lakers fans were eager to see what the future held with the four-time NBA MVP on their team. The Lakers had missed the playoffs the previous five seasons and were in desperate need of a player of LeBron's caliber to help turn the franchise around.

And he should did just that. 

In 2020, LeBron helped the Lakers reach the NBA Finals in 2020, where they won the championship against the Miami Heat. This marked LeBron's fourth championship and his first with the Lakers. 

A cultural icon

Warner Bros. Pictures
LeBron James starring in 'Space Jam: A New Legacy'Warner Bros. Pictures

But James is more than just a basketball player. 


Over the course of his nearly two-decade long career, he has transcended the sport and become a cultural icon. 

He has used his platform to bring attention to important social and political issues, using his voice to speak out against systemic racism and advocating for racial justice and equality. 

He has also been a vocal advocate for education, opening up a the 'I Promise' school for at-risk children in his hometown in Ohio and investing in education initiatives that aim to level the playing field for underprivileged students. 

Even before I got into the NBA, I knew I wanted to find a way to give back to my community.
LeBron James

Aside from his philanthropic deeds, James has major endorsement deals with for Nike, Coca Cola, GMC, AT&T and many more multinational companies. He also owns a piece of the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool football club

His entertainment company, SpringHill - named after the modest apartment complex he grew up in - is valued at $725 million (€635m) and has produced movies for HBO and Netflix.


And he even starred in 2021's 'Space Jam: A New Legacy' movie. 

It's no surprise that in 2022 Forbes announced that the 38-year-old superstar became the first active NBA player to make their billionaires list.

From his dominant play on the court to his activism off the court, LeBron's impact on basketball and popular culture will be felt for generations to come.

Video editor • Theo Farrant

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