By Zach Jacovini
Since being dubbed “The Chosen One” in a February 2002 edition of widely acclaimed sports magazine Sports Illustrated, forward LeBron James has given fans a career that will be celebrated and remembered long after the day the King finally decides to hang it up.
Of course, when the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted James first overall in the first round of the 2003 NBA Draft, it was expected that James would become an instant star in the league, with many citing his potential to be one of the all-time greats.
Sam Gilhawley, a junior finance major and long-time fan of James’, talked about just how high expectations were for James even as a young adolescent, and how impressive it is that he surpassed the already sky-high expectations. “LeBron was considered one of the best high school players ever; his high school basketball games were all nationally televised. So many analysts believed he couldn’t live up to the hype, as living up to the hype is so difficult. Yet he continues to exceed all of those expectations.”
On Feb. 7, James did what many basketball fans thought could never be done. With 10.9 seconds left on the clock in the third quarter, James received the ball from now former Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook, and despite everyone on the opposing team and in the building aware of who was going to shoot the basketball, James was still able to get his fadeaway jumper off. The jumper was pure, and LeBron’s already decorated legacy had just gained a new achievement: the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.
Basketball fanatics across the world tuned in to watch James break the long-held record, including junior marketing major Joey Bachich. According to Bachich, the moment was considered special for many basketball fans, but for Lebron fans such as himself, the moment was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“I was keeping track of the number he needed to break the record because I am a LeBron fan, so I wanted the opportunity to watch it live,” Bachich said. “I know LeBron talked about it before how he didn’t think he was going to get emotional after breaking the record, but even as a fan I took a moment and thought to myself: ‘This player I’ve been watching since I was born has now become the greatest player of all time.’”
The record, long held by hall-of-fame center Kareem Adbul-Jabbar is one of the most coveted accomplishments held by a professional basketball player. Abdul-Jabbar retired in 1989 with one of the most storied careers of a basketball player to date under his belt. Abdul-Jabbar had been rewarded with many different awards and honors throughout his career, but perhaps his greatest achievement was the 38, 387 points he had scored when he finally decided to step away from the game.
By all accounts, breaking this record solidifies James' place on the Mount Rushmore of basketball. After breaking this record, the on-court action was paused to celebrate the historical moment, and James gave a speech with media, fans, family and the previous owner of the all-time scoring record, Abdul-Jabbar, in attendance: “I thank you guys so much for allowing me to be part of something I’ve always dreamed about and I would never, ever in a million years dreamt this any better than what it is tonight. So, f— man, thank you guys.” Fans applauded the emotion-filled speech, appreciating that in a time of high emotions, James kept it real with his fans.
The game eventually went on to resume, and the Los Angeles Lakers tumultuous season continued, as they were defeated by the Oklahoma City Thunder, 133-130. All things considered, this game was a legacy defining moment for James, and despite the tough loss, he got to break a record previously held for almost 40 years in front of his family and friends.
Before tip-off had even come, James had his usual meeting with reporters and media, and his following comments were sure to spark even more conversation to the one of the most repetitive, long-lasting debates in all of sports: Who is the greatest player of all time? “I feel like I’m the best basketball player that has ever played the game,” said James.
This settlement was shared by many of his fans, such as Bachich, who were happy to see James give himself the credit they believe he’s long deserved.
“I think LeBron is able to call himself the greatest of all time from what he’s put into the game,” Bachich said. “The fans can kind of say what they want, but for LeBron, I think he’s entitled to say, ‘I put in the work for the past twenty years and I am the greatest of all time.’ However, Michael Jordan’s numbers and his mentality and approach to the game were incredible. It’s really difficult to make a choice between one and the other.”
James was on the brink of breaking one of the most highly acclaimed records, filled with the emotions of the upcoming game in which he was sure to break the record. James did what every fan wants out of their star players: he spoke honestly and from the heart, letting fans know his truth.
However, this truth will not be shared by everyone, as many will still point to others whom they believe takes the crown in the greatest of all time debates, mainly his airness himself, Michael Jordan. Jordan is not only one of the greatest players to pick up a basketball, but a cultural icon too, one that to this day owns a brand that is universally recognized and beloved.
James knows that breaking Abdul-Jabbar's scoring record was an important step in building his case for being the greatest player to ever step onto the hardwood, but perhaps an even steeper challenge awaits James in passing the unbendable legacy of Jordan. James has made a career of doing what many deemed impossible, and to seek recognition as the greatest basketball player to ever live from fans and media alike, he will have to do it one more time.