He scored 16 points in the first half. But even as the Lakers built a big lead in the third quarter, Abdul-Jabbar resisted forcing shots and consistently passed out of traps. A 12-footer along the baseline gave him 18 points for the game. By the start of the fourth quarter, the game was so out of reach that Frank Layden, the coach of the Jazz, began removing his key players to preserve them for the playoffs.
But Abdul-Jabbar was so close to the record that he re-entered the game, and he tied Chamberlain when James Worthy passed to him for a dunk. The next assist needed to belong to Johnson, and when Johnson passed out of trouble to Bob McAdoo, one of the Lakers’ reserves, his teammates shouted at McAdoo to pass it back to Johnson.
“Magic almost ran up and grabbed it,” Scott said, laughing at the memory.
Bob Hansen, a first-year guard for the Jazz that season, was guarding Johnson and made the unconventional decision to give him a little space to make an entry pass to Abdul-Jabbar on the right block.
“Didn’t want to really get in the way of history,” Hansen said.
Hansen’s teammates had other ideas. Eaton and Green tried to double-team the 7-2 Abdul-Jabbar, but he took one dribble, pivoted to his right, then spun to his left to rise for a sky hook over Eaton, who had been dreading such a moment. Chick Hearn, the longtime play-by-play announcer for the Lakers, rejoiced when the ball splashed through the hoop.
“The new king of scoring has ascended his throne,” Hearn said on the broadcast as Abdul-Jabbar’s teammates embraced him. “This man has accomplished something that I don’t believe — and I mean this sincerely — I don’t think this will ever happen again.”
As reporters, photographers and dignitaries swarmed Abdul-Jabbar, Hansen waded through the mass of humanity with the ball in his hands. He found Abdul-Jabbar near midcourt.
“I said: ‘Here you go, big fella, here’s the ball. Do you want the ball?’ He was like: ‘Yeah! Thanks, little man,’” said Hansen, who is 6-6. “And he patted me on the head.”