LeBron James on tying Michael Jordan’s record against Hornets
What a record-breaking night this turned out to be.
On a night where all eyes were on Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker — he needed 20 points Wednesday to become the franchise's all-time leading scorer — it was, naturally, the Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James who stole the show.
Now, Walker got his record. He wanted to accomplish this feat at home in the Spectrum Center, and poor shooting be damned, he was going to make it. He finished with 21 points, the last of those coming via the last made basket of the game. At least that pressure is gone now.
But the night ended up belonging to James. He got the win (a 118-105 thumping by the time it mercifully ended), the new additions to his infinite highlight reel (more on those to come) ... and oh yeah, a record of his own.
By tying Hornets owner Michael Jordan.
James finished Wednesday's contest with 41 points, significantly more than the 27.4 he averages a game, but the only number he needed was 10. Hit double digits, and he would tie Jordan for the most consecutive games doing so in NBA history (866 in a row).
"Anytime I'm mentioned with some of the greats, and arguably the greatest basketball player of all time in Mike, it's just another feat for me to be appreciative and humbled by what I've been able to do," James said. "I look at it like, 'Wow, I can't even believe I'm in this position.'"
And of course, James could not break this record quietly.
Instead of an average layup, or a mid-range jump shot, or even a 3-pointer, this had to be a thunderous moment. What better than, say, a two-handed alley-oop dunk?
Midway through the second quarter, Cleveland Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith (who finished with 19 in his own right) drove into the heart of the Hornets defense. Then he lobbed the ball up into the air, right as James crashed towards the rim. From there, it was easy: catch, dunk, crowd erupts, celebrate, get back on defense.
"It's not like I go into every game saying, 'Okay, we've got to get 10 points this game,'" James said. "It's just kind of organic. It happens."
But it would be remiss to say that play was James' only highlight on the night. He had multiple dunks, both of the normal and alley-oop variation, and played his typical brand of bully ball. He time after time plunged his 6-foot-8, 250-pound frame into the heart of the Hornets defense and somehow emerged with a basket. He ended the night having made 14 of his 26 attempts.
Just as impressive, though, was his 3-point shooting. This season, James only sinks 36.2 percent of his tries from beyond the arc. Wednesday he made four of eight. Normally teams can try to pack the paint and dare LeBron to shoot — but what if he's ripping off 3s at a 50 percent clip?
That this sort of performance came from James the night after he said publicly that he thought he should be this season's league MVP is likely no coincidence. That his Cavaliers were blown out the night before by the Miami Heat probably only added fuel to the fire, too.
So, were those sorts of things on James' mind Wednesday night?
"I am who I am, I've made my mark in this league," James said when asked about potentially winning a fifth MVP award, "but I want to continue to press the envelope. Awards don't always account for that."
Either way, it did not matter.
After the game, James stuck around on the court to congratulate Walker on his record. A tribute played on the overhead video board, and the packed crowd in the Spectrum Center lingered for the moment. James did, too.
"I just went over and told him how incredible that was, even with the season they're having," James said. "He has a lot of respect around the league.
"Listen, if you can be the all-time leading scorer in any franchise, that's incredible. That's an incredible feat."
Once James had shared his regards with Walker, he eventually left the court. What Walker accomplished was indeed a feat, and James said Walker deserved to be celebrated.
But the fans told no lies, even on Walker's record-setting evening.
As James finally headed back to the locker room, the cheers of "M-V-P" followed him down the tunnel.