LOS ANGELES – They are compared so often that it’s become one of the great debates in all of sports: who is the best basketball player ever, Michael Jordan or LeBron James?
Neither one of the players have said much about the debate as it rages on with fans, but the latter did all he could to praise the former as he eclipsed him on a coveted list in the National Basketball Association.
With a “Thank You” to Jordan written on his shoes Wednesday night at the Staples Center, James passed the Bulls’ Hall-of-Famer to rank fourth all-time in points scored in NBA history during the Lakers’ game with the Nuggets.
“For a kid from Akron, Ohio that needed inspiration and needed some type of positive influence, MJ was that guy for me,” James said after the game. “I watched him from afar, wanted to be like MJ, wanted to shoot fade aways like MJ… I wanted kids to look up to me at some point like MJ, and this is – it’s crazy, to be honest.”
An and-1 in the second quarter helped James eclipse Jordan’s 32,292 points, and he would go on to finish the night with 31 points, bringing his own total up to 32,311. It puts him behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387), Karl Malone (36,298), and Kobe Bryant (33,643) at the top of the league’s scoring list.
LeBron James was emotional on the bench after reaching his latest milestone
(🎥 via @espn)
— FanDuel (@FanDuel) March 7, 2019
It was quite an accomplishment for James, who sat on the bench with a towel over his face in an emotional moment, while a tribute video to his career was played on the video board at the Staples Center.
“There’s a lot of stuff I’ve done in my career; this ranks right up there at the top,” James said.
James said growing up, Michael Jordan was all he and his friends would talk about as they played on the playground. He said he would walk up and down the streets in Akron singing the song, “I wanna be like Mike.” James said he always wanted to wear the number 23 because of Jordan. He says he’s worked to inspire kids in his hometown and beyond in the same way during his own career in the NBA.
“When you’re an inner city kid from Akron, Ohio you look for any lightning in a bottle that can inspire you because you’re always put up against the numbers of failing,” James said. “MJ had a lot to do with me making it out.”
"This ranks right up there at the top… for a kid from Akron, Ohio that needed inspiration and needed some type of positive influence, MJ was that guy for me."
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 7, 2019