James was never the best at any one thing as a scorer — never the best shooter, highest jumper or most creative post-up player, though he may rival Johnson as the best passer. Instead, he became skilled enough at every facet of the game to remain relevant, and dominant, for 20 years.
While he accumulated points rapidly — he was the youngest player to reach 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 and 30,000 points — James also shifted his game in response to getting older and the changing N.B.A.
In the first half of his career, James wowed observers with a steady diet of ferocious dunks and midrange jumpers, while elevating his teammates with nifty passes all over the floor. As players like Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and James Harden made the 3-pointer a core part of the game over the past decade, James sharpened that tool, too.
And though he doesn’t do it as often as he did earlier in his career, James can still barrel to the basket with the speed and strength of an Amtrak car with a reckless engineer.
Like Abdul-Jabbar, James owes his persistent pursuit of the scoring record to good fortune and another elite skill: durability, especially early in his career. In his first eight seasons, James missed just 29 of 656 regular-season games. He has dealt with injuries in recent years with the Lakers, but he has carried on in between absences like he had something to prove.
He has long been the heartbeat of a league that revolves around superstars. Few have embodied the term the way he has. James has won four championships across three teams — Cleveland, the Miami Heat and the Lakers — and he passed Jordan in 2017 to become the leading scorer in playoff history.
When he passed Bryant to become No. 3 on the career scoring list in January 2020, Bryant wrote on Twitter“Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother.”