NBA history was made on Tuesday night as contemporary icon LeBron James broke Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time scoring record.
James dropped 38 points as the LA Lakers were beaten 133-130 by the Oklahoma City Thunder to fall further back in the West, but the defeat paled in comparison to the 38-year-old’s achievement.
Kareem’s scoring record, which was set at 38,387 in 1989, was believed by many to be insurmountable, but LeBron’s longevity and continued production allowed him to surpass the generational centre.
It’s a record that thrusts him to the forefront of GOAT debates, and while Michael Jordan’s legacy is pretty hard to overlook, there’s no denying that LeBron is a mightily strong contender in such discussions.
Here’s how his achievements compare to two of football’s all-time greats in Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Comparing achievements across sports is difficult to do, but we’ll give it a go, starting with scoring.
LeBron has now scored the most points in NBA history after surpassing Kareem on Tuesday night. His 38 points against the Thunder means his imperious tally now sits at 38,390.
Points are comparable to goals, and Ronaldo has scored the most goals in football history. The Portuguese great has bagged 820 goals for club and country in his career. Messi’s tally of 795 means he sits second in the all-time ranking.
LeBron is also a four-time NBA MVP, an award we’ll compare to the Ballon d’Or which Messi has won seven times. Ronaldo, meanwhile, is a five-time winner. The basketball superstar has also been named NBA Finals MVP on four occasions and while the finals are spread out over several games, it’s somewhat comparable to being named Man of the Match in the Champions League final.
Both Messi and Ronaldo have been named MOTM in the big game just once.
Turning to team achievements, Ronaldo’s five Champions League crowns dwarf LeBron’s four championship rings, while Messi is a four-time Champions League winner. Like Ronaldo, James has won the biggest prize with multiple teams.
On the international stage, each of these athletes has enjoyed huge success. However, we have to value Messi’s World Cup victory in 2022 greater than LeBron’s two gold medals given the USA’s superiority in the event.
James is rich. Shock horror, I know.
He became the NBA’s highest-paid player of all time in 2022 when he penned an extension with the Lakers, and Forbes estimates his total net worth to be approximately $1.2bn. James had made over $528m in guaranteed money throughout his NBA career, with money from endorsements, business investments and his own entertainment production company making up the rest of his net worth.
Ronaldo’s net worth is estimated to be just under half of LeBron’s at $500m, but his lucrative contract in Saudi Arabia with Al Nassr is poised to bolster that figure. Messi, meanwhile, is said to be worth upwards of $600m.
He’s got to be a Liverpool fan, right? I mean, he didn’t pretend he knew Peter Crouch for nothing surely?!
Well, he actually is a big fan of the club and James’ partnership with Liverpool owners FSG means he holds a minority (2%) stake in the Reds. His investment dates back to 2011, and he’s said to have made a very tidy profit from their on-pitch success under Jurgen Klopp.
James described his visit to Anfield over a decade ago as “one of the single best experiences” of his life. During his trip, he met King Kenny Dalglish and then first-teamers Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez and Dirk Kuyt before watching Liverpool take on Manchester United.
His loyalties have lied with the Reds since.