LeBron James stands with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar during the game on Feb. 7 after breaking Abdul-Jabbar’s 38-year-old record to become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. Photo courtesy of Harry How/Getty Images.
MATTHEW CRANE | SPORTS CO-EDITOR | firstname.lastname@example.org
Overtime, or “OT,” is an opinion column series where the Collegian takes national sports headlines and gives them a Butler-centric angle.
The greats of NBA history have one thing in common. Kobe. Magic. Jordan. Bird. KD. Steph. These names are attributed to the best of the best in the NBA. People know exactly who each player is immediately. LeBron James has been considered in this category since he entered the NBA straight out of St. Vincent-St. Mary High School.
The highest expectations were placed on James from the very beginning. He was featured on Sports Illustrated’s magazine cover in 2002 as a junior in high school and called “The Chosen One.” He was compared to Michael Jordan and seen as the next NBA superstar.
Now at age 38 and in his 20th season, the accolades are continuing to rise and an important one was achieved on Feb. 7 against the Oklahoma City Thunder. At the end of the third quarter, James received a pass from Russell Westbrook, took three dribbles and attempted a fade-away jumper that swished through the net. With that basket, James passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to become the all-time leading scorer with 38,388 points. James would score two more points on the night and currently sits at 38,390 points for his career.
As a famous athlete, James has had a target on his back that caused many people to talk about his level of play and accomplishments on a daily basis. Senior Spanish major Kevin Tyson’s family is from Cleveland and he has grown up watching James play. Tyson explained what this achievement means when comparing him to any other players.
“It really distinguishes him from anyone else,” Tyson said. “ I think he was distinguished from anyone else on paper before. I relate it to Messi winning the World Cup. It kills a lot of arguments. He has been shown to be an exemplary player on the court.”
The rising stats are video game-like numbers and his other accolades are even more impressive. Last season, James became the first player in NBA history to reach 10,000 points, rebounds and assists. He has been selected as an All-Star 19 times and has made 18 All-NBA teams.
A major reason for his accolades has been his longevity and his ability to stay out on the floor. As of Feb. 14, he has played in 1,410 games and averages 70.5 games per season. In recent years, his durability has started to drop and he has taken games off to rest, but the fact that his career game total is so high is remarkable.
Josh Murry, a junior economics and Spanish double major, has been a Cavaliers fan his entire life. Murry emphasized that James’ longevity and overall body of work surpass any other player.
“We’ve seen people be better than him for stretches,” Murry said. “ You could argue Kobe, Jordan, or whoever, but the length at which he’s done it has never been done before. You look at other great players in year 20. The reality of the situation is they are just done. Their bodies have broken down. For me, the fact that I grew up watching him play as well as he was and now I’m a junior in college and he is still playing this well. It feels like his prime has been his entire career.”
In the amount of time that James has been in the league, he has been in the spotlight and constantly under fire from critics. One such moment was about his decision to play for the Miami Heat which led to fans in Cleveland burning his jersey. He has also sparked criticism about his comments about the NBA’s China controversy.
Many people have turned this historic figure into a villain. Atlanta Hawks fans know all too well how difficult it was to watch a James-led Cavs team own the Eastern Conference and some of us previously have disliked James for his play or his antics on the court.
The one thing that nobody can criticize is the impact of his work in the community or what he does off the court. Regardless of his on-the-court legacy, his legacy off-the-court remains stellar.
In 2018, the LeBron James Family Foundation opened the I Promise School, an elementary school in Akron, Ohio which aims to help at-risk children. The school has free tuition as well as a food pantry for the families that it serves. There is also guaranteed tuition to the University of Akron for all graduating students that complete all of the criteria.
James has visited the school numerous times and the joy on the student’s faces shows how much he means to his community. The endless amount of charitable donations and appearances show how much he cares about being a role model for others and how much he wants to bring about positive change.
No matter what James does or does not do, the conversation always comes back to answering the debate of who is the greatest NBA player of all time. Junior biology major Noah Pitlik has been an NBA fan since 2015 and he believes that the answer is simple.
“I love LeBron,” Pitlik said. “ I think he’s great and I love watching him get his teammates involved. If he has to score, he could be one of the best scorers and could also be one of the passers in the league if needed. I think that’s a useful skill and he has proven he can carry a team time and time again. I don’t know anyone else that can really do that.”
James has shown that he will continue to play at a high level and his career statistics will rise as he starts to enter his 40s. The only question that remains is how much longer he will play. The question of who exactly is the greatest of all time will continue to be asked, but the answer is simple now with the scoring title under James’ impressive body of work.