Things were awkward in LA after LeBron outplayed Kareem

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar gives LeBron James the ball after James passed Abdul-Jabbar to become the NBA's all-time leading scorer on Feb. 7, 2023, in Los Angeles.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar gives LeBron James the ball after James passed Abdul-Jabbar to become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer on Feb. 7, 2023, in Los Angeles.
Picture: Getty Images

Anyone with a pulse could see the ensuing tension LeBron James’ record basket surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s alTop scorer l times. The two men, who scored more points than anyone in the history of the association, went out as extremely uncomfortable with each other during the celebration ceremony James’ achievement.

The relationship, or lack thereof, between James and Abdul-Jabbar has been well documented and was on full display Tuesday night. King put on a brave face and then shed a few tears, but his energy and body language screamed, “why is he even here.” Neither side looked thrilled, but regardless, everyone got what they wanted in the moment.

James took his place on the mantle as the NBA’s most prolific scorer. The captain saved face (somewhat) by showing up and not coming off as a grumpy old man skipping the event, even though his face sometimes said otherwise. Then the NBA and the Lakers got their happy moment, videos and photos they can use for the next 75 years to commemorate and monetize.

Over the years, Abdul-Jabbar has been critical of James and then sometimes praised him. James is not the type to forget a sting, even if he forgives. Sometimes justified, and sometimes it seems like Kareem digs LeBron because he can. But Abdul-Jabbar always had a reputation for being a bit caustic.

“Some of the things he did and said were really beneath his honor as far as I can see,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “Against some of the great things he has done. Standing on both sides of the fence, almost. It’s hard for me to accept that… when he’s committed to a different view of everything, it’s hard to see where he stands. You have to check it every time.”

There’s no animosity on James’ part, or so he told ESPN’s Michael Wilbon in a recent interview interview.

“It’s all good. At the end of the day, we’re part of a franchise that’s so historic in the game of basketball and means so much to so many people, not just here in Los Angeles but all over the world, that it just makes sense. It’s kind of weird how the stars line up .”

For what it’s worth, Abdul-Jabbar had, too beef with the player he eclipsed to become the all-time leading scorer in 1984, Wilt Chamberlain. He wasn’t even in the building when Kareem walked past him, even though Chamberlain was supposed to be there. The most significant difference is that at one time Kareem and Wilt were actually close and competed against each other. James’ era is several generations away from Abdul-Jabbar’s, so some of his criticisms are considered unwarranted. So it’s easy to see why LeBron might feel a certain way about his interactions with “The Captain” during his career.

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