Regardless of how bad the Lakers are around him this season, LeBron James will almost certainly pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the all-time scoring title. There’s obviously an assumption of no long-term injuries in that statement, but LeBron is rapidly closing in on Cap’s scoring total that has stood the test of time.
Kareem became the all-time leading scorer in 1984, meaning he’s been the top of the top in scoring for the NBA for nearly 40 years. You could understand if there were a little bit of resentment that he will no longer hold that top spot. And according to Magic Johnson, there very well might be.
Appearing on Shannon Sharpe’s Club Shay Shay podcast, Magic was asked how he thought Kareem would react to LeBron passing him and gave a bit of a surprising answer.
“I don’t think well. Let’s be honest. If I got to say it, we got to be honest. And the fact it’s a dude that’s playing for the Lakers, too. It’s a dude playing in LA. I think it’ll be a hard pill to swallow.... I think he thought he was going to have (the record) forever.”
Now, it should be noted that, at least publicly, Kareem has been everything but resentful. Last year in an interview with Marc Stein, Kareem said he’d be courtside to cheer LeBron on when the moment came that he would pass him in scoring. And Cap has been complimentary of LeBron outside of that as well, singling out LeBron as the current player he would bring back to his generation and his team.
But that doesn’t mean they’ve always seen eye-to-eye. When LeBron opted out of taking a firm stance on the COVID-19 vaccine, Kareem called him out in his newsletter. He criticized him again last April for not taking stronger stances on matters given his platform.
To the credit of both of them, they are two of the loudest voices on a number of topics, especially when it comes to social justice matters. Magic was asked by Sharpe if he would help facilitate a sit-down conversation with the two where they could air out grievances and, hopefully, grow closer.
“For sure. And for them as two men, as two black men who have gone through a lot, right? Both of them are similar in ways. Kareem came out the same way as LeBron, all this hype, expectations and they succeeded those expectations. Both of them. They changed for Kareem. They changed the league for LeBron. That big, that strong, that fast, they had to change things up because people couldn’t deal with him. Same thing with Kareem. They’re different, yet similar. I just hope...I think one day that’s going to happen. If I can play a part in that, I would love to do that.”
Kareem has had a bit of a reputation as a bit of a...curmudgeon, but he’s also been a very introspective and self-aware person. Although he’s certainly said nothing to the contrary, hopefully Kareem still intends on being courtside when LeBron breaks his record. When Steph Curry passed Ray Allen for the most 3-pointers made all-time, the latter was courtside for the game and it made it all the more memorable.
For the sake of the game of basketball and the moment that will be, the two need to be able to (at least) briefly set aside their differences for the greater good.