Becoming the NBA’s all-time scoring leader doesn’t cement LeBron James as the GOAT, but it certainly doesn’t hurt his case.
James has long been considered an all-time great, but Tuesday night was one for the history books, putting up 38 points to surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s career scoring leader, a record that stood for nearly 39 years. Following the game, James was interviewed by Shaquille O’Neal, Candace Parker, Jamal Crawford and Adam Lefkoe on TNT. Near the end of the interview, Shaq asked James if the scoring record makes him the greatest NBA player ever.
LeBron James — with some pressure from Shaq 😂 — on the GOAT talk.
“I’m gonna take myself. I’m gonna take myself against anybody that’s ever played this game.” 🏀👑 pic.twitter.com/WyuNPofhbH
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) February 8, 2023
“I said at the beginning of this show, I wish that I would’ve had this moment, the chance to pass up Kareem,” O’Neal began. “You now have passed up Kareem. I know what my attitude would’ve been. Does this now make you the greatest player of all time? Are you now the GOAT?”
James seemed reluctant to say surpassing Abdul-Jabbar ended the GOAT discussion, chuckling at the question before noting it’s a fun debate.
“I’m gonna let everybody else decide who that is,” James said. “But it’s great barbershop talk.”
Not content on letting James get away without offering a direct answer, O’Neal put on his reporter hat and pressured the new all-time scoring leader into calling himself the GOAT, better than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, Magic Johnson or whoever else you want to put into the conversation.
“No, no. I wanna hear you say it, Bron Bron,” O’Neal interrupted with a smile. “Say it with your chest, Bron, Bron.”
“Listen big fella, me personally, I’m gonna take myself against anybody who’s ever played this game,” James relented. “But everyone’s gonna have their favorite. Everyone’s gonna decide who their favorite is. But I know what I’ve brought to the table. … I always feel like I’m the best to ever play this game, but there’s so many other great ones that I’m happy to just be a part of their journey.”
And once James came out and said it, he stuck with his opinion. During his postgame press conference, James was asked about the GOAT conversation again and although he remained humble, he was less reluctant to declare himself the greatest.
“For me, I think it’s great barbershop talk. It’s going to happen forever and ever,” James said of the GOAT conversation. “If I was the GM of a franchise that was starting up, and I had the number one pick, I would take me. But that’s just me, because I believe in myself.”
Despite being a record-setting night, the Los Angeles Lakers lost the historic game to the Oklahoma City Thunder, which gives LeBron’s detractors a little bit of fuel to claim he’s not the greatest of all-time.