LeBron James becomes first NBA player to score 40,000 points in Lakers' loss to Nuggets

Los Angeles, California March 2, 2024-Lakers LeBron James scores his 40,000th point.

In a game the NBA and the Lakers celebrated all the shots LeBron James made on his way to 40,000 points, the Nuggets continued to make every big shot necessary to gut the Lakers.

For the eighth consecutive time, including last year’s Western Conference finals, the Nuggets defeated the Lakers, collectively overshadowing any individual performance in a 124-114 victory on Saturday night at Arena.

The Lakers led by 11 points in the first half, but Denver stormed back in the third quarter and dominated the final four minutes, outscoring the Lakers by 12.

The loss meant the Lakers’ celebration of a James accomplishment would again be muted. The team lost when James set the all-time scoring record last season and lost when he passed Karl Malone and Kobe Bryant in the top three of the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

“Being the first player to do something, that's pretty cool in this league. You just know the history, the greats that's come through the league," James said. "For me, the main thing is always the main thing, and that's the win. I hated that it had to happen in the defeat, especially versus the team that plays extremely well.”

James reached the 40,000 milestone 81 seconds into the second quarter on a spinning layup. He finished with 26 points on 12-for-20 shooting and had nine assists and four rebounds. Austin Reaves had 19 points and 14 assists, and Rui Hachimura scored 23 points. Anthony Davis and D'Angelo Russell each had 19 points.

LeBron James celebrates after scoring his 40,000th career point.
LeBron James celebrates after scoring his 40,000th career point. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Magic Johnson tweeted video of the milestone basket, saying he was “so glad I was here to witness such an incredible feat!”

At the next dead ball, the Lakers honored James with a video tribute and presented him with the game ball.

“I was just telling him in the locker room, one, he might have to stop breaking records because we always lose any time he breaks a record. And he said the same thing,” Davis said with a laugh.

Denver coach Michael Malone, who first coached as an assistant against James when he had only 101 career NBA points, said before the game that the number is arbitrary, but the message it sends shouldn’t be.

“You just have to marvel at the continued greatness, you know what I mean? There are so many stories of guys coming out of high school who have all this hype, all the hype, he's the next so and so. And they never pan out,” Malone said before the game. “And if you really go way back, for LeBron James to come out of St. Vincent St. Mary in Akron Ohio. He's just passed every test along the way. It's really incredible. How he's handled the fame at such an early age, the spotlight. To do what he's doing at this stage of his career — and it doesn't appear like he's slowing down at all, which is even scarier. When you take a step back, you have to marvel at the longevity.”

The Nuggets didn’t stand back for long.

Read more: How LeBron James claimed the NBA's scoring crown, step by step

Denver turned up its defensive intensity in the third and did what it seems like it always does against the Lakers — out-performing them in the clutch.

Nikola Jokic finished with 35 points, Michael Porter Jr. scored 25 points on 10-for-10 shooting and Jamal Murray scored nine of his 24 in the fourth.

“I just wanna be better. Just figure out a way how I, how we can be better versus this team,” James said. “They have our number.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.