In the aftermath of LeBron James’ inevitable march to greatness the other day, basketball habitues rightly celebrated the once-in-a-lifetime experience. The career scoring record, perhaps the most hallowed of all records in the National Basketball Association, was toppled with aplomb. That Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — who had held it for close to 39 years and hitherto appeared to have a vise-like grip on it — was present to witness history being made anew made the spectacle all the more memorable. And it certainly helped that the stars were aligned in more ways than one; both were wearing purple and gold and in front of hometown fans when they climbed to the top of the mountain.
Given the considerable resources and formidable confluence of events James (and Abdul-Jabbar before him) required to reach the scoring summit, it’s fair to argue that the mark will never be broken anew — and not simply because the 38-year-old, 19-time All-Star figures to keep adding to it for the foreseeable future. Drive, determination, and durability will need to be mixed with a singular skill set and, lest it be forgotten, no small measure of good fortune in order for another player to come close to the number that will ultimately be etched in hoops annals.
The irony, of course, is that James won the other night even as the Lakers lost once more. It didn’t matter that the beyond-capacity crowd of 19,068 brought more glitz than usual, as if that were at all possible. Especially for the jaded, the Thunder, well, stole the thunder in claiming the match and compelling the hosts to absorb their 30th setback in 55 games. And critics wouldn’t be wrong to contend that they may well have had a chance to triumph had their acknowledged leader not been physically -— and, needless to say, emotionally spent in the fourth quarter. Bottom line, they’re a mere two spots from the bottom of the Western Conference, and not even his otherworldly efforts seems enough to stave off the inevitable.
James is no fool, which is why he acknowledges the futility of casting moist eyes on the Larry O’Brien Trophy in the absence of ample support. These days, his goals are more personal: to play as long as he can, to share the floor with son Bronny at some point, to exit in a blaze of glory. He’s not blameless in this regard. Who knows how the last couple of years would have played out had he been less greedy after the bubble championship and valued the bird in his hand instead of wanting the two in the bush?
What’s done is done, though, and if there’s anything James doesn’t do, it’s get consumed with regret. It’s why he continues to carve new paths with gusto; unlike the scoring mark, age is just a number to him.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and human resources management, corporate communications, and business development.