Editor’s note: This is the Monday, February 6, edition of the “Game Day with Kevin Modesti” newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.
Good morning. This should be the week LeBron James breaks the NBA career scoring record, either Tuesday night when the Lakers play Oklahoma City at Crypto.com Arena or Thursday when they host Milwaukee. Southern California News Group writers have been looking at the developing story from all angles.
Some non-Lebron headlines:
- After the Dallas Mavericks won the Kyrie Irving Derby, Kyle Goon writes about where the Lakers go after failing to land their top trade target.
- Martin Truex Jr. figured out the quarter-mile oval and won the NASCAR Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum.
- Columnist Jim Alexander writes about how UCLA women’s basketball coach Cori Close got the team to snap out of its losing streak.
- Spring-training anticipation continues with analysis of the catcher position for the Dodgers and the Angels.
- A couple of weekend stakes wins at Santa Anita might have helped jockey Flavien Prat break out of his slump.
- Check your local SCNG paper’s website for the high school basketball boys and girls playoff pairings announced yesterday.
LeBron James’ pursuit of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s career record of 38,387 points has been a topic for more than a week, a month or a season.
I got curious about when people started to seriously discuss James as a contender for Abdul-Jabbar’s crown. At least in the digital archives of my home newspaper, the Los Angeles Daily News, the first time the two men and the record were mentioned together in a story was more than a decade ago. It turns out the first mention came from Abdul-Jabbar himself in an interview with Mark Medina, then the Daily News’ Lakers beat writer and now with NBA.com, who asked if anyone could break Kareem’s most famous record.
“Sure, but somebody is going to have to play pretty close to 20 years and be the offensive focus (of his team) and be someone the coach wants to take a lot of shots,” Abdul-Jabbar said in a story that appeared Nov. 15, 2012, before his statue was unveiled outside then-Staples Center. “Who knows who is going to last that long? LeBron and Kobe (Bryant) can certainly score and might do it. But most people tell me they’re making too much money and won’t play that long.”
LeBron, playing in Miami at age 27, was only about halfway to Kareem’s record regular-season total at that point. Kobe, 34 in 2012, was within 10,000 points but would retire in 2016 with 33,643.
Kareem was right: LeBron has needed to play 20 seasons to get here, and, um, yes, his coach still wants him to take shots.
Kareem also was wrong: Oddly, being paid more than $40 million a year to play hasn’t discouraged LeBron from continuing to play.
As James has moved closer to the record – he’s 36 points from eclipsing it, and averaging 30.0 points a game this season – our writers, editors and photographers have been surrounding the story.
Among the angles covered:
- History. The staff takes a look back at Joe Fulks, George Mikan, Dolph Schayes, Bob Pettit, Wilt Chamberlain and Abdul-Jabbar, the men who have held the NBA scoring record. Half of them were Lakers.
- Kareem’s signature shot. Jim Alexander’s column focuses on Abdul-Jabbar’s skyhook and explained why this unstoppable move has become a basketball relic.
- LeBron’s signature shot. Lakers beat writer Kyle Goon traces how James made himself a prolific scorer and the role of an unguardable shot, the post-up, turnaround, fadeaway jumper.
- LeBron’s all-around game: Columnist Mirjam Swanson explores one of the amazing things about LeBron becoming No. 1 in career points: He’s also its No. 4 in career assists.
- Weird timing. Swanson looks at the Lakers’ big picture – they’re 25-29 – and the drab backdrop it provides for a record. “Like a royal coronation held at a truck stop,” Mirjam writes.
- Endurance. It’s said that LeBron is having “the longest prime in NBA (or sports) history.” I looked at whether that’s true in a story that went online this morning.
There’s more to look forward to. Kyle Goon has a story coming about LeBron’s case for being the greatest basketball player ever, and another remembering key career moments for James along the way here.
And then there will be the crowning moment itself, almost certainly either Tuesday or Thursday night, and coverage that should be a keeper for newspaper readers.
Get SCNG’s Lakers coverage online here and follow the latest from our beat man on Twitter (@kylegoon) here.
- Clippers, 3-2 on their longest trip of the season, wrap it up against a Brooklyn team without Irving and injured Kevin Durant (4: 30 p.m., BSSC).
- Ducks come out of the All-Star break with the NHL’s worst record but a winning attitude, visiting Dallas (5: 30 p.m., BSW).
Yesterday’s question about whether the Lakers or Clippers should trade for Kyrie Irving became moot when the Nets traded him to the Mavericks, but early responsesopposed bringing Irving to L.A.
Did NASCAR pique your interest by bringing a race to an unusual quarter-mile oval at the L.A. Coliseum yesterday? Answer by email (KModesti@scng.com) or on Twitter (@KevinModesti).
“Great day to be a Jewish Lakers fan.” – Adam Grosbard, SCNG’s USC beat writer, reacting on Twitter to news that the Nets traded Kyrie Irving to the Mavericks and not the Lakers. Irving posted a link in November to an anti-Semitic film and took more than a week to apologize.
L.A. traffic: Drivers race around one of the tight turns on the temporary, quarter-mile oval at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum yesterday during the early laps of the NASCAR Busch Light Clash. Photo is by Will Lester of the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin and SCNG.
Thanks for reading the newsletter. Send suggestions, comments and questions by email at KModesti@scng.com and via Twitter @KevinModesti.
Editor’s note: Thanks for reading the “Game Day with Kevin Modesti” newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.