LeBron James reflected emotionally on his life and career after passing Michael Jordan to move into fourth place on the NBA career scoring list on Wednesday night.
His teammates congratulated him, a tribute video played, and at the next timeout, James sat alone on the bench with his face buried in a towel.
The reaction seemed fitting for a player who idolized Jordan growing up.
“I don’t know, man, a lot of the stuff I’ve done in my career, this ranks right at the top,” the 34-year-old veteran said after the game. “For a kid from Akron, Ohio, that needed inspiration, needed some type of positive influence, MJ was that guy for me.
“Wanted to be like MJ, wanted to shoot fadeaways like MJ, wanted to stick my tongue out on dunks like MJ, wanted to wear my sneakers like MJ. … I wanted kids to look up to me at some point like MJ.
“It’s crazy, to be honest. It’s beyond crazy.”
James, who finished with 31 points in the Lakers’ 115-99 loss to the Denver Nuggets, came into the night 12 behind Jordan’s career total of 32,292 points. He now sits at 32,311 points.
Next on the list is Kobe Bryant, who finished his career with 33,643 points. Karl Malone is second with 36,928, and former Lakers great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is No. 1 with 38,387.
James tied Jordan when he drained a 19-foot jumper midway through the second quarter. A minute later, he passed the Hall of Famer when he drove to the basket for a left-handed layup.
James has three NBA titles to his credit and Malone has none, but the other three members of the top five in scoring have extensive ring collections. Bryant has five while Jordan and Abdul-Jabbar each have six.
And if James is going to add to that total this season, he and his Lakers will need to get things going in the other direction in a hurry with the team at 30-35 and 6 1/2 games out of a playoff spot.
James missed 18 games earlier this season because of a left groin strain, but he has vowed not to sit out for rest down the stretch.