I wanted to be like MJ: James

LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers scoring the basket that takes him past Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list at the Staples Centre on Wednesday. The Lakers' fourth straight defeat, 115-99 against the Denver Nuggets, puts them 61/2 games
LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers scoring the basket that takes him past Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list at the Staples Centre on Wednesday. The Lakers' fourth straight defeat, 115-99 against the Denver Nuggets, puts them 6 1/2 games behind the LA Clippers for the eighth and final play-off spot in the Western Conference.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Emotional star pays tribute to Jordan after passing the NBA great in all-time scoring list

LOS ANGELES • LeBron James stood under the basket on Wednesday with his right hand clenched, pointing one finger, and counted off: one, two, three, four.

He had just passed Michael Jordan (32,292 points) on the National Basketball Association's all-time scoring list.

At a timeout, James sat on the bench with cameras surrounding him and a video tribute playing above him. He covered his face with a towel and took the moment for himself.

"It was very emotional, very emotional," he said. "Lot of things that was going on inside me at that point in time. I wanted to look up at the scoreboard to see what was going on up there but, at the same time, I didn't want to show what was going on behind the towel."

James is now the fourth-leading scorer in league history, having scored 32,311 points in his career.

Only three players have scored more - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387), Karl Malone (36,928) and Kobe Bryant (33,643) - and all of them spent at least part of their careers with the Los Angeles Lakers.

"I don't know man, a lot of stuff that I've done in my career, this ranks right up there at the top," he said, still emotional after the game.

INSPIRATIONAL

I watched him from afar, wanted to be like MJ. Shoot fadeaways like MJ. Wanted to stick my tongue out on a dunk like MJ. Wear my sneakers like MJ. I wanted kids to look up to me at some point like MJ. It's beyond crazy.

LEBRON JAMES, on how he idolised NBA legend Michael Jordan.

"The championship, just for a kid from Akron, Ohio, who needed inspiration, needed some type of positive influence, MJ was that guy.

"I watched him from afar, wanted to be like MJ. Shoot fadeaways like MJ. Wanted to stick my tongue out on a dunk like MJ. Wear my sneakers like MJ. I wanted kids to look up to me at some point like MJ. It's beyond crazy."

James' moment was a bright spot for the Lakers in an otherwise dismal day. The Lakers (30-35) suffered their fourth consecutive loss, this time losing 115-99 to the Denver Nuggets (43-21) to drop 61/2 games behind the Los Angeles Clippers for the eighth and final play-off spot in the West.

But, while his achievement was "unfortunate that it came in a loss", Lakers coach Luke Walton still felt it was "pretty awesome", saying: "We should start off by giving credit to what LeBron did tonight.

"For someone that's always looking to pass first to score that many points in his career just speaks to the greatness in his game."

At a shoot-around prior to the game, James said he did not have time to appreciate the milestones he reached during a season, pausing to think about it only when asked about it by reporters. But, 97 minutes before tip-off, he finally showed his excitement publicly.

"Can't even front," James wrote on Twitter. "This is going to be UNREAL!! Wow man."

Jordan was someone the forward idolised, claiming that the first time he met the Chicago Bulls legend, it was like meeting God.

Last week, James became the first man in NBA history to be in the top 10 in both career points and assists.

This accomplishment, though, stood above most of the others - with the exception of the championship he won for the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016.

After the game, his phone filled with messages from his childhood friends. "Me and my best friends, this is all we talked about," James, who also received a diamond chain from rapper 2 Chainz at courtside as a congratulatory present, said.

"All we talked about is MJ. Outdoor court, we used to play outdoor ball. In the snow. In the rain in Ohio and we all wanted to be MJ. Every last one of us."

DPA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2019, with the headline 'I wanted to be like MJ: James'. Print Edition | Subscribe