With 5:38 left in the 2nd quarter against the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night, LeBron James caught a pass from Rajon Rondo at the elbow, darted toward the rim and dropped in a left-handed lay-up while being fouled in the process. With that bucket, LeBron had officially passed Michael Jordan to move into fourth place on the all-time scoring list, a monumental achievement for a kid who grew up idolizing the legendary Chicago Bull and who has spent the back half of his career chasing Jordan’s ghost.
While LeBron was emotional in the moment, hiding his face behind a towel on the bench as the jumbotron inside the Staples Center played a tribute video to his accomplishments, he was deeply reflective afterwards about the enormous influence Jordan played in his life, especially as a kid trying to make it out of Akron, Ohio and achieve the type of things he could only dream of.
“When you’re an inner-city kid from Akron, Ohio, like myself and my guys growing up, you look for anything, any lightning in a bottle that can inspire you,” James said. “You’re always put up against the numbers of failing. The percentages of guys like myself, single-parent household, only child, privileged, making it out, it’s not high at all. MJ had a lot to do with me making it out.”
Though Jordan has never made much of an effort to create any sort of meaningful relationship with James, that hasn’t kept James from repeatedly touching on how much MJ has meant to him over his career. He even went on to say that meeting Jordan for the first time was akin to “meeting Jesus.”
LeBron may very well end up at no. 1 on the all-time scoring list when his career is all said and done, surpassing Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabaar in the process. But none of those accomplishments will hold the same type of weight of passing the man who inspired LeBron James to become, well, LeBron James.