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LeBron James becomes first NBA player to score 40,000 points

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James looks toward fans after scoring during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Los Angeles.
Mark J. Terrill
/
AP
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James looks toward fans after scoring during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Los Angeles.

Basketball star LeBron James became the first NBA player to reach 40,000 career regular-season points on Saturday. James, 39, said he was proud to reach the milestone, but described the game as "bittersweet", as his Los Angeles Lakers lost 124-114 to the defending NBA champions the Denver Nuggets.

"Being the first player to do something, it's pretty cool in this league, just knowing the history, the greats that's come through the league, and then you see some of the greats on the floor tonight, it was great to compete," said James, who scored 26 points on the night.

"But for me, the main thing, as always, is to win, and I hated that it had to happen in a defeat." James has achieved the feat in 1,475 regular-season games, reaching double-digit points in each of the last 1,205 of those.

James also talked about the intense pressure that has been on him since he started as a young player over 20 years ago. "For the first time in a long time, I've seen the commercial that was played before my first game," James said. "I think they mentioned all the greats to ever play the game of basketball, like Big O and Michael and Kareem and Kobe, and forgot who all else was in that commercial. And then it was like, 'the next one, LeBron James.'

"I didn't see that commercial when it happened, but when I was watching it today, I was like what the hell? That expectation on an 18-year-old kid like that, that was insane to think about."

Last February, James passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's previous record of 38,387 NBA career points, which had stood since 1989. James is also a great passer of the basketball. He is fourth in career assists with 10,847, with a high average of 7.35 per game.

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) dribbles the ball as Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Los Angeles.
Yannick Peterhans / AP
/
AP
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) dribbles the ball as Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Los Angeles.

James said most people didn't imagine he would break 40,000 points when he started out in the game. "There's just certain things that you just don't think that's going to happen," he said. "I guess for years people said Kareem's record wouldn't be broken. I was able to eclipse it. But like I said, you have to have some really good luck, you have to play the game at a high level for a long time, and then we see."

"I come to work and prepare and prep, mentally, physically, spiritually every single night when it's time to play, and I just try to go out and contribute," he said. "Been able to do it for 20-plus years, including this year. When I come on the floor and feel pretty good, I feel I can make plays.

"Still able to do the things that I was doing 10 years ago. And some things I was doing 20 years ago, which is weird to say."

It is likely to be a long time until James's record is broken. Of current active NBA players, Kevin Durrant has the second highest total of regular-season points scored over his career, with 28,372. The 35-year-old is expected to retire long before troubling James's total.

On top of the regular NBA season, James has also played 3 1/2 seasons worth of games in the playoffs, en route to four titles in 10 NBA Finals appearances. Throughout his career, he has largely avoided major injuries.

Nuggets coach Michael Malone, who worked with James at the Cleveland Cavaliers, paid tribute to the player's incredible career. "I remember being in Cleveland, him being in the weight room with our weight and strength coaches, and there's no way he's doing what he's doing at this stage of his career if he is not putting a ton of time into his body, his diet, his sleep, all those things that really matter," Malone said before the game.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Robbie Griffiths