LOS ANGELES • Dirk Nowitzki feels LeBron James will end up as the National Basketball Association's (NBA) greatest scorer, after the Los Angeles Lakers star passed him to move into sixth place on the all-time list during the 110-106 loss at San Antonio Spurs on Saturday.
James, who turns 34 in December, finished with 35 points to became the game's active overall points leader. He had needed 21 points to surpass Nowitzki and now has a total of 31,202 points.
James is within range of Wilt Chamberlain in fifth with 31,419 and Michael Jordan in fourth with 32,292 in the NBA list topped by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with 38,387.
Nowitzki, the 40-year-old German who plays for Dallas Mavericks, told American sports broadcaster ESPN: "If he stays healthy, the way he's looking and moving, he has a chance at Kareem.
"His numbers have been unbelievable. He doesn't seem to slow down. If he keeps this up, he can pass Kareem."
James hit his 21st point on a 17-foot jumper from the right with 7min 51sec left in the third quarter.
He also passed Shaquille O'Neal for sixth on the field goals list in the third quarter. In his 19-year career, O'Neal finished with 11,330.
"Dirk has always been one of my favourite players. Shaq is the most dominant player to ever play this game," said James, who also had 11 rebounds.
"So to be in the same conversation as those guys is a tribute."
Lakers coach Luke Walton praised both James and Nowitzki as "unstoppable" scorers before the game.
He said: "All you're trying to do when you're playing guys of that level is make it hard for them. Don't foul them. Make them take contested shots. Make them take a lot of shots to get their points.
LeBron James is sixth on the NBA's all-time scoring charts, just 217 points behind fifth-placed Wilt Chamberlain.
"But there's nothing you can do to stop either one of those guys."
But the Lakers are anything but unstoppable as they fell to 2-4, although James saw enough positives.
"The team is going to grow and get better," said James, whose team shot 53 per cent in the first half and led by as many as 14 points.
"We are going to use these experiences for the better. I think we played very, very well besides four or five minutes in the third quarter where we offensively stalled."
DeMar DeRozan nailed a fadeaway jumper with 16 seconds left to finish with 30 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists to help the Spurs overcome James' 432nd career 30-point game.
It was the Spurs' second victory over the same team in a week, aided by Rudy Gay's 16 points and LaMarcus Aldridge's 15.
The Lakers' Kyle Kuzma finished with 15 points and Lance Stephenson added 14 points.
In Milwaukee, Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds in just 19 minutes as hosts Bucks remained undefeated by routing the Orlando Magic 113-91. The 6-0 start is their best since the 1971-72 squad led by Hall of Famers Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson opened with seven straight wins.
They host the NBA's only other undefeated team, the Toronto Raptors (6-0), today.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS