NEW YORK — As the fanfare of LeBron James’ quest for the NBA’s all-time record came to a head on Tuesday — playing in the world’s most famous arena in the city where the longtime No. date, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, was born – James made his mark with his passing.
James delivered 11 assists in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 129-123 overtime win over the New York Knicks, taking his career tally to 10,338 and passing Mark Jackson (10,334) and Steve Nash (10,335) to move up to No. 4 on the all-assists list.
“It’s amazing because that’s exactly what I love to do and get my guys involved,” said James, who added 28 points and 10 rebounds for his first triple-double of the season, becoming the first player in league history to record a triple-double in their 20th season or beyond. “Any time you connect with some of the greats – Mark Jackson played here, got drafted here by the Knicks, so that’s a super cool thing. And obviously we know when Nash was [in the league], I played against him for many years. His ability to pass the ball was very amazing.”
And James’ ability to sustain himself at such a high level has remained otherworldly, as the 38-year-old star is now 89 points short of Abdul-Jabbar’s record which has stood for nearly 39 years.
“He’s just a kid who has grown up before our eyes, the last 20 years at this level, has done nothing but play the right way and make the game that’s in front of him,” said the Lakers coach Darvin Ham on James’ points and assists tally. . “No matter how badly he’s been criticized for a while for not taking final shots and overtaking – he just makes the right plays. You saw that again tonight.”
LA ended a four-game overtime losing streak this season, withstanding a late 6-0 run from the Knicks in the fourth quarter that tied the game before James and Anthony Davis combined to stifle Julius Randle and not not allow him out of a draw at the end of regulation to force OT.
“Defensively, we’re just a different team when he’s back there and we know he’s got the paint going,” Ham said of Davis, who had 27 points, 9 rebounds and 2 steals. in only his third game after missing 20 consecutive games with a right foot injury.
It was a redemptive night for the Lakers considering how their current five-game road trip began with an overtime loss to Boston.
Not only did they end Tuesday’s game with better balance in the extra session, but Russell Westbrook, who was benched for the entire fourth quarter against the Celtics, was instrumental.
Westbrook had three assists and had the only shot he took in OT, finishing with 17 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds and 3 steals.
“I’m going to do it. I mean, it’s only a matter of time when I’m going to do it. … I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to be in this league for at least a few more years.”
LeBron James close to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record
“You have a chance to learn from your mistakes, at least me personally,” Westbrook said. “You get the chance to watch a movie and learn how you can run the stretch getting good shots, missing or getting it. And getting saves, which was important for us tonight.”
The Lakers will wrap up the trip with games in Indiana on Thursday and New Orleans on Saturday. If James plays in both and maintains his 30.2 ppg average, he’ll pass Abdul-Jabbar at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder next Tuesday. The Lakers have another game in Los Angeles next Thursday against Milwaukee on trade deadline Feb. 9 before hitting the road again for a two-game road trip.
“The team is very excited,” Davis said. “It will probably be a surreal moment for all of us, but probably more so for him. … Obviously, whatever the game, we want to be able to win the game.”
James was asked if the thought of the feat – a hallowed record not just in basketball, but in all professional sports – wasn’t “heavier” because it was so close.
“It’s not heavier,” he said. “I’m going to do it. I mean, it’s only a matter of time when I’m going to do it. It’s not heavy. I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to be in this league for at least a few more years.
“I will. It’s not heavy at all.”