Though his Miami Heat fell to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night, LeBron James achieved a feat unsurpassed in the annals of the NBA. According to Fox Sports Hoops' Twitter account, he reached the 23,000-point plateau at a younger age than anyone in league history:
LeBron James just became the youngest player to reach 23,000 points in NBA history.— FOX Sports: Hoops (@HoopsonFOX) April 5, 2014
James came into Friday needing 31 points to reach 23,000. He achieved that with a layup at the 4:21 mark in the second overtime. He would go on to score 34 points, but he missed a crucial free throw with 16 seconds left in the 122-121 loss.
The 29-year-old James became the first player to surpass 23,000 points before the age of 30, per ESPN Stats:
Via @EliasSports, LeBron James is the youngest player to reach 23,000 points. He's the 1st EVER to reach that mark before his 30th B-Day— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 5, 2014
Of course, "youngest" does not mean "fastest." Players like Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain reached 23,000 points in fewer games, but their professional careers started later. James had the benefit in coming into the league in 2003, at a time when the NBA was recruiting players fresh out of high school.
But that does not diminish James' accomplishment. Only 27 players reached 23,000 points before him, and every single Hall of Fame-eligible player on that list has already been enshrined in Springfield.
While James is probably already a lock for the Hall, he has always had a higher place in mind for his legacy. He caused a stir earlier in the season when he said he expected to be on the NBA's Mount Rushmore.
He explained his reasoning to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel: "The facts are the facts and that's what I believe in myself. Once again, these are my personal goals. I don't care where no one else puts me, as far as where the best ever, or analysts or so-called gurus of basketball, place me when I'm done."
James might not be beloved by everyone in the basketball community, but there is no denying his greatness. He has MVP awards; he has titles; he has it all. And he will continue to pile up records and accolades until the day he retires.
The only question is how far he will climb on this list by the time he's through.
*All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com, unless otherwise noted.