The sad backdrop to LeBron James’ historic greatness

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If everything goes as expected, LeBron James is about a week away, maybe a shade more, from breaking one of basketball’s Holy Grail records.

It is a worthy pursuit and a remarkable one. The difficulty level is off the charts. To be on the cusp of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s career points tally of 38,387 has required not only historic excellence but outrageous longevity.

In a game that has evolved so much over the years, smashing through one of these glass ceilings feels impossible. In most cases, it is. Record are made to be broken, you say? In professional hoops they are made to stand, tall and proud, and possibly into infinity.

The rebounding mark held by Wilt Chamberlain, that’s never getting topped, not unless basketball shifts to a 10-second shot clock or reduces the court size by about 50 percent.


John Stockton’s records for steals and assists? Forget it. Not happening. Even the most proficient modern thieves and helpers would need to replicate their best season for about 30 years to get by the Utah Jazz legend.

Blocks? Nope. Rudy Gobert is today’s pre-eminent swatter, but he won’t hold a flame to Hakeem Olajuwon’s career number, not with so many shots now coming from beyond the 3-point arc.

By default, then, what James is about to achieve is incredible and there are a lot of strands to it, each with noteworthiness. And yet, for all the pieces, not least the head-scratching reality that he’s putting up 30 points a night at age 38, it is impossible to get away from a gnawing thought.

That even with the history and the brilliance and the numerical weight, this is, in some way, a sad and strange pursuit.

Skip says LeBron’s recent scoring streak is “impossibly, all-time great”

Skip discusses LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.

For instead of taking place against an appropriate backdrop, not necessarily a bid for a title but at least an effort in which his Los Angeles Lakers were somewhat competitive, this is shaping up as yet another lost campaign in Tinseltown.

The Lakers are 23-28, good enough for just 13th of the 15 teams in the Western Conference, unsure of Anthony Davis‘ fitness, lumbered with Russell Westbrook’s enormous contract, hamstring in both the number of their future draft picks and with restrictions on what they can do with them, and reliant on James for, er, everything.

James sat during Monday’s defeat at the Brooklyn Nets and was due to be evaluated (sore foot) on Tuesday before the Lakers’ Madison Square Garden clash with the New York Knicks, where it once looked like he might end up as a free agent.

Occasionally, the Lakers look like a decent team. They played hard and well in a nationally televised visit to Boston last weekend, that sprouted some controversy when James’ was fouled by Jayson Tatum on a potentially game-winning layup, but there was no call.

James’ reaction was impressively theatrical, teammate Patrick Beverley hilariously grabbed a courtside photographer’s camera to show the officials their folly and got a tech for it. And, in the end, the Lakers lost again, in overtime.

LeBron, Lakers call out NBA referees after missed call

LeBron James was up in arms, and Skip and Shannon react.

James still cares about the winning and the losing and made that clear in comments a few weeks ago.

“I’m a winner and I want to win,” he told reporters. “I want to win and give myself a chance to win and still compete for championships. That has always been my passion. Playing basketball at this level just to be playing basketball is not in my DNA.”

He looks frustrated. All things being equal, he probably didn’t imagine his time in Los Angeles being so unproductive since the title won in the Orlando bubble in 2020.

The Lakers have made too many false moves since then to be a title challenger. The current group is not a deep squad. Nor, truth be told, an especially functional one. The team added Rui Hachimura from the Washington Wizards last week, which wasn’t a bad move. It’s also not the kind of switch to transform a team’s fortunes.

[Trade grades: How did Lakers do in Hachimura deal?]

Two decades from now, it won’t matter. People will see the number of career points James put up, be awed by it, and the context will have long since disappeared.

But it feels like it matters now. It is the last record of its type that will be broken for a long time. Luka Doncic is the only current player who might have a shot, and he’s said he plans to have his feet up on a Slovenian farm long before he gets old enough to actually be able to do it.

It is an absurd number if you think about it. Trae Young scored 2,155 points last season, the most in the league. James is at 38,271. Try to get your head around how good, for how long, that requires.

The record will come, soon enough. Maybe, and this would be kind of cool, on an appropriate night, like the Feb. 9 home game against fellow All-Star captain Giannis Antetokounmpo. They’ll stop the game for it. There will be a celebration. Handshakes, hugs and plaudits all round.

And then what? Just back to the grind, we presume, as another Lakers season just lurches along – propped up until now by one player and his conflicting chase for history.

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter.

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