AP WAS THERE: Kareem passes Wilt for scoring record
EDITORS — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar passed Wilt Chamberlain for the NBA’s career scoring lead on April 5, 1984 during a game against the Utah Jazz in Las Vegas. The Associated Press, as part of its coverage of LeBron James’ breaking Abdul-Jabbar’s record, is looking back at Abdul-Jabbar’s historic night. This game story by now-retired AP Sports Writer Tim Dahlberg was published in the Biloxi Sun Herald on April 6, 1984. The story is published as it appears in the newspaper.
By TIM DAHLBERG
AP Sports Writer
LAS VEGAS, Nev. (AP) — Somehow, the sky hook seemed appropriate.
A shot he patented and used literally thousands of times throughout his pro career, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar turned to it again Thursday night to set a new all-time National Basketball Association scoring record, breaking Wilt Chamberlain’s mark of 31,419 points.
The Los Angeles Lakers great took a feed from Earvin “Magic” Johnson near the baseline, faked a pass, and turned to his left to hit a soft 10-footer over two Utah Jazz defenders with 8:53 left in the game. The Lakers won 129-115.
His teammates hugged him as a sellout crowd roared its approval and Abdul-Jabbar had another place in the record books.
“I’ve always enjoyed being a scorer, I can’t deny that,” Abdul-Jabbar said.
The 22 points gave him 31,421 for a career that has spanned 15 seasons, first with the Milwaukee Bucks, then with the Lakers. But Abdul-Jabbar says he would like to be remembered more as being part of a key part of a series of successful team than as a great individual player.
“That’s what the game is all about,” he said. “You see exceptional players that couldn’t take their teams anywhere. I’ve always enjoyed doing well as a team.”
With his parents on hand as well as NBA Commissioner David Stern, Abdul-Jabbar started with a rush, scoring 12 points in the first quarter and adding four more in the second to pull within five points of the record.
The sellout crowd of 18,359 screamed in unison every time he touched the ball in the second half, but he scored only two points in the third quarter and, with the Lakers well ahead, coach Pat Riley asked if he would like to sit down for the rest of the evening.
“Pat asked if I wanted to be taken out,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “I told him no, I’d rather get it done.”
And get it done he did.
With 10:45 left in the game, Abdul-Jabbar took a feed from James Worthy and dunked to tie the record.
Less than two minutes later, Johnson looked for the ball, waited for his teammate to get downcourt, then hit the great center on the right baseline. Abdul-Jabbar turned to his left, and guarded by two defenders, hit his record-breaking shot.
“When I got the ball I waved everybody out,” said Johnson, who had made no secret of his desire to get an assist on the record-breaker. “The first time, (Bob) McAdoo threw it to him but he got triple-teamed and I said, ‘Yeah.’ He threw it back out and McAdoo missed. I said ‘Okay, now’s my chance. I’m going to make sure I give it to him.’”
Abdul-Jabbar said the record-breaking shot was nothing special, but admitted he was glad to have the record behind him.
“It was a big burden off my shoulders and a big burden off the team’s shoulders,” he said. “Our goal is to win a world championship, we can focus on that now.”
Chamberlain was supposed to be at the game to congratulate Abdul-Jabbar on breaking his record, but the former 14-season pro did not show up at the arena.
“I’m not disappointed,” Abdul-Jabbar said about Chamberlain’s failure to appear. “I have immense respect for him. I know for a fact that Wilt doesn’t appreciate the fact that for a lot of his career he was taken for granted.”
Abdul-Jabbar said Chamberlain did things on the basketball court that will stand the test of time.
“There’s no way I can eclipse him totally,” he said. “He proved his greatness a long time before I started playing basketball.”
With just one more season left on his contract, Abdul-Jabbar, who will turn 37 later this month, may be in the twilight of his career but he is not showing it.
A former rookie of the year and an NBA all-star 14 times, he is still averaging 21.2 points a game this season even with reduced playing time granted as a concession to his advancing age.
The scoring crown is now his along with a host of previous records. Many consider him the game’s greatest player, but Abdul-Jabbar says that’s not for him to decide.
“That’s debatable and I don’t want to get into debates. I know my name will be brought up. That satisfies me.”
Byron Scott led Los Angeles with 24 points, followed by Johnson with 23, Abdul-Jabbar’s 22 and 20 by Worthy. John Drew canned 24 for Utah and Adrian Dantley had 23.