LeBron and the legend of the eight points: ‘I will be showing my son this box score’
8: 08 AM ET
ESPN Staff Writer
- Lakers and NBA reporter for ESPN.
- Covered the Lakers and NBA for ESPNLosAngeles.com from 2009-14, the Cavaliers from 2014-18 for ESPN.com and the NBA for NBA.com from 2005-09.
LEBRON JAMES IS well-known for his uncanny ability to recall specific moments from any point throughout his pro basketball career, whether it occurred minutes or even years prior.
But when asked earlier this week about the milestone he reached Thursday — going 16 years and 1,125 regular-season games without scoring fewer than 10 points — James was stumped.
“Really?” He told ESPN. “I don’t recall it. “
It turns that James isn’t the only one. The game that no one seems to remember? It was Jan. 5, 2007, a Cleveland Cavaliers‘ 95-86 road victory over the Milwaukee Bucks during James’ fourth season in the NBA.
His line: nine assists, five rebounds, 3-for-13 shooting from the field in 43 minutes.
And eight points.
“When I went to look at the box score I was like, ‘Well, maybe I had a good game,'” Donyell Marshall, now an assistant with the G League’s Greensboro Swarm and a forward on that 2006-07 Cavaliers team, told ESPN. “Then I looked at my box score and I was like, “Well, I didn’t do anything either.” ‘”
“If you’d asked me, ‘Do you remember having 30-plus and LeBron being in single digits?’ I would have expected to have some kind of memory of it,” Drew Gooden, a former Cavaliers forward and now working as an analyst for Washington Wizards broadcasts, told ESPN with a laugh. However, there was one person who clearly remembered what happened that night: Terry Stotts, then-Bucks coach.
“I’ll be honest, I remember that game distinctly — and not because LeBron didn’t score 10,” Stotts told ESPN.
The final play of that Cleveland victory — a dunk by Michael Redd with 14.8 seconds to go — would turn out to be the beginning of the end of Stotts’ tenure in Milwaukee. Stotts stated that
“Michael had a dunk within the final seconds of the game. “A meaningless dunk. We were down nine.
“[But] he goes up to dunk the ball, and he did something to his knee and missed the next 20 games. … We went 3-17. “
And, just over two months later — after Milwaukee entered the Cavaliers game with a 500 record, and with wins in seven of their prior nine games — Stotts was fired. He would later go on to have a successful nine-year run as coach of the Portland Trail Blazers.
But while the game turned out to have significant consequences for the Bucks, for Cleveland it was simply another night on the way to a wildly successful season that ended with an NBA Finals loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
So while James’ former teammates couldn’t remember much about a random January game 16 years ago, the memories of playing alongside him remain strong. Gooden stated that he is amazed at how much he continues to grow and learn, all while carrying the weight of the entire world on his shoulders. He’s a true superhero who is always available. “
FOR MARSHALL, WHO spent parts of three seasons playing alongside James as part of a career that saw him play for eight different teams, his enduring memory of James was of someone who was dedicated to both improving and knowing the history of the game from a very young age. Marshall stated that he played with many great players, but never one who had studied the game as he was. Marshall said that he wanted to see film as soon as the game was over.
“To my surprise, many men today aren’t even students of the game. Many men didn’t know the names of the players who played before them, which helped him to get started. He is a man who knows the stats of Oscar Robertson. He knows Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s stats. He knows Wilt Chamberlain‘s stats. “
Gooden said that what stood out to him in his basketball life was how James, from his high school days at St. Vincent-St. Mary, Akron, Ohio to now, has always met the challenges presented to him.
“Just him always finding it out,” Gooden stated. “Just being able produce under pressure. I’ve known him since he was 15, so it’s a different perspective from knowing him over 26 years. He had this Nike campaign about how we were witnesses of his greatness. We have all been witnesses. It’s that simple. It’s all that and more. “
To put James’ streak in perspective: Marshall played in 957 games across 15 NBA seasons. Gooden, meanwhile, played 790 across 14 years in the league — both far more, and far longer, than the average NBA player’s career.
“It’s actually more surprising he ever scored under 10 points than to say he hasn’t done it in 16 years,” Marshall said. “Early in your career, your rookie year, you’re going to have some games where you might not score over 10. But the greatness that he has displayed and all that he’s done, I would say I’m more surprised he had a game under 10 points than I am surprised about the streak. Former Cavaliers guard Daniel Gibson was a rookie that year. When asked about playing alongside James, Gibson immediately recalled his pre-draft workout ahead of the 2006 draft, when he was taken by Cleveland with the 42nd overall pick. Gibson, now an assistant coach for the G League’s Cleveland Charge told ESPN that he had a horrible workout in Houston and then the Cavs were his second workout. “And [LeBron] came along and I did amazing.
“After the exercise, he approached me and it just gave me all the confidence in the world. Being that he’s LeBron James, you’re [just] hoping for an opportunity on a roster — let alone him telling you he’d love that, if I was still available, to be on their roster.
“He instilled confidence in me, and that’s what I learned from the Cavs. He was the best player in the game to me. He was always the first to leave the gym. “
“At first I was like, ‘That’s just another one of those records that’s kind of made up,’ but then I realized it’s not. It’s almost like a real record.”
LeBron James, on his streak of 1,125 regular-season games with at least 10 points
For his part, James said he doesn’t pay much attention to the regular-season game streak, saying it was only something he noted whenever it popped up on his social media timeline or was mentioned in the media. He also said that he doesn’t focus on his halftime box score when he is looking at the box scores.
” I see it,” James said. “But the most important things that I focus on are our team turnovers and the points off turnovers of other teams, fast-break points from our opponents, and my personal turnovers.
” That’s it. I don’t pay too much attention to the total points. “
THE CLOSEST JAMES came to breaking the streak was March 20, 2021, when he fell to the court in agony and frustration after spraining his ankle after landing on Atlanta Hawks forward Solomon Hill. It looked briefly like he might be unable to continue playing. But he managed to stay in long enough to hit a 3-pointer to get to 10 points before calling a timeout and leaving the game. It would be the last time James would play for over a month. James admitted that he didn’t know the consequences of his missed 3-pointer at the time.
” Not until after the game,” James stated.
Another noteworthy moment during the streak came during the 2017-18 regular-season finale against the New York Knicks, where James, whose goal was to play in all 82 games, immediately left the contest after scoring exactly 10 points in 11 minutes.
While James’ double-digit points streak has become a bigger deal over time — particularly after he passed Michael Jordan’s previous record of 866 consecutive regular season games on March 30, 2018, in a Cavaliers victory over the New Orleans Pelicans — it was never something he thought about trying to achieve. James said that he was impressed by Jordan’s passing. “At first, I thought it was just another one of those phony records, but then I realized that it wasn’t. It’s almost like a real record. But I don’t know. I just go out and have fun.
“It’s exactly the same as the all-time scoring records when I get them. I never even [aimed for it] … It’s quite cool. It’s not like I can sit there and say, “Oh, well, it doesn’t mean anything.” It does. It wasn’t what I set out to do. I didn’t. “
Whether James aimed to achieve it or not, 16 years later he’s still doing it, inching closer to breaking Abdul-Jabbar’s once seemingly insurmountable mark as the league’s all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points.
For Gooden, though, it gives him an opportunity to prove to his 10-year-old son, Drew Gooden IV, that his dad actually does know a thing or two about playing with one of the greats. Gooden laughed and said that he would show his son the box score. He also mentioned that his son questions James “all of the time.” “
“He will say to me, “Did you speak to LeBron?” Do you know it’s his Birthday? Gooden continued. Gooden continued, “He’s a huge LeBron Fan, and he’s reaching the age where he knows it’s true, because there’s data backing it up.
“There have been some memorable nights with him. But never did I think there would be a historic night where he scored single digits and I had 31. “
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.