Kareem Unenthused by Scoring Milestone: 'I Don't Put Emphasis on Them'

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's focused pursuit eclipses scoring milestone

by Zain ul Abedin
Kareem Unenthused by Scoring Milestone: 'I Don't Put Emphasis on Them'
© Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

In the early 1980s, the NBA was captivated by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as he edged closer to surpassing Wilt Chamberlain's esteemed scoring record of 31,419 points. The anticipation mirrored the recent excitement around LeBron James breaking Abdul-Jabbar's record decades later.

Yet, when Kareem finally set the new benchmark, his reaction was relief rather than exultation. The Lakers centre felt liberated from the relentless media scrutiny and the mounting pressure of the chase, enabling him to refocus on team success and personal fulfilment.

Known affectionately as 'Cap,' Kareem's approach to the game was always team-first, a philosophy that perhaps muted his enthusiasm for individual accolades. His mindset was apparent even in 1981, after overtaking Oscar Robertson as second on the all-time scoring list.

"It's a relief that it's over," Abdul-Jabbar disclosed. "People put a lot of emphasis on milestones, but I don’t... Winning is still the most exciting for me."

Kareem's Reluctant Record

The historic moment came during a regular season matchup against the Utah Jazz in the 1983-84 NBA season.

Entering the game 21 points behind Chamberlain, Abdul-Jabbar wasn’t overly excited about becoming the all-time leading scorer, a sentiment he had expressed throughout the buildup. "There isn’t a day that's gone by without somebody telling me exactly how many points I have and how many more I need," he shared.

Focused on the larger goal, he aimed to put the record behind him and concentrate on the Lakers' season objectives. Abdul-Jabbar achieved the record with his signature skyhook shot, contributing to a 129-115 victory over the Jazz and scoring 22 points that evening.

Despite the personal milestone, his primary joy stemmed from leading his team to victory. Wilt Chamberlain, known as 'The Big Dipper,' expressed his respect for Abdul-Jabbar following the achievement. Despite their occasionally strained relationship, Wilt recognized Kareem’s deservingness of the record.

"He definitely deserves it," Chamberlain remarked. "It’s no fluke of a record. It’s something that took a lot of years, a lot of hard work, and facing multiple defenders." Since Chamberlain's passing in 1999, five more players have surpassed him on the scoring list.

Yet, the transition of the scoring title to Abdul-Jabbar remains a significant moment in NBA history, celebrated for the sportsmanship and respect between two legendary game giants.