LeBron James moved past Wilt Chamberlain on the NBA’s all-time scoring list Wednesday night — and he did it in spectacular fashion.
James took over fifth place on the list with 31,425 career points while scoring a season-high 44 and leading the Los Angeles Lakers to a 126-117 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers. He just missed recording his second triple-double of the season with 10 rebounds and nine assists and also had three blocks.
It was the most points by a Lakers player since Kobe Bryant scored 60 in the final game of his career in April 2016.
He was nearly flawless from long range, making 5-of-6 3-point attempts and shooting 13-of-19 overall from the floor.
James scored the history-making basket with 3:55 left in the game when he made a 12-foot jumper while being fouled by Jake Layman, and then made the free throw.
Chamberlain, the Hall of Fame center who starred for the Lakers from 1968-73, scored 31,419 points during his 14-year career. James is now chasing Michael Jordan, who is fourth on the scoring list with 32,292 points.
During his postgame remarks, James paid tribute to Chamberlain.
“One if the most dominant forces we ever had in our game, along with Shaq,” said James. “One of the greatest Lakers to ever play the game. One of the greatest scorers and rebounders ever. … Just dominant in all walks of life, not just his basketball career.”
James appeared to struggle to find the right words when he was asked how it felt to be wearing a Lakers uniform when he moved passed one of the Lakers’ all-time greats.
“I don’t know how I feel right now,” he said. “I’m happy we were able to get another win. But anytime my name is mentioned with some of the greats that have played this game, you know I always think back to my hometown (Akron) and where I come from and how far I’ve come. So that’s it for me.”
Lakers coach Luke Walton, who was drafted the same year as James, marveled at the 16-year veteran’s feat.
“To do what he did and to get on the top five of that list and play basketball the way he plays basketball, with how unselfish he is and how great he is with getting his teammates involved, is something that should be praised and talked about and I’m sure it will be,” Walton said. “I’m doing my part in congratulating one of the all-time greats on a great accomplishment.”
In addition to making history, James continues to make his presence felt in his first season with the Lakers.
James has fueled the Lakers’ recent surge as the team improved to 8-6. After starting the season 2-5, the Lakers have won six of seven and four straight.
Their victory over Portland was the Lakers’ second this season — notable considering the Lakers had lost 16 straight games to the Blazers before that.
On Wednesday, the Lakers trailed by 13 points with less than 6:29 left in the second quarter. James then helped power the Lakers on a 27-10 surge to close out the half, and the Lakers never trailed again.
Follow Josh Peter on Twitter @joshlpeter11.