SAN ANTONIO -- For a player who never identified himself as a "scorer," LeBron James has sure found himself in elite company among the most potent offensive threats in NBA history.
James' jumper with 1.1 seconds remaining in the first quarter of the Cleveland Cavaliers' game against the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday gave him eight points for the game and 30,001 points for his career. He is the seventh player to enter the 30,000-point club and also the youngest at 33 years and 24 days, besting Kobe Bryant's previous mark (34 years and 104 days).
James finished with 28 points on 10-of-23 shooting from the field in the Cavaliers' 114-102 loss to the Spurs, upping his total to 30,021.
"Just a special moment," James said after the game. "I just started thinking about everything. My journey from being a kid who first picked up a basketball when I was 5 years old to first playing organized basketball when I was 9 all the way up to this point.
"I give a lot of thanks to a lot of people. This is a special moment. It's something I never set out to do. I'm not even a score-first guy when it comes to playing basketball. I love getting my teammates involved and seeing my teammates be excited about scoring and me getting the assist and things of that nature."
Along with Bryant, who is third all time in scoring with 33,643 points, James joined points leader Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387), Karl Malone (36,928), Michael Jordan (32,292), Wilt Chamberlain (31,419) and Dirk Nowitzki (30,837 and counting) in the exclusive crew.
Congrats @KingJames. Welcome to the club!!!— Dirk Nowitzki (@swish41) January 24, 2018
"For me to sit here and be the youngest player to ever reach 30,000, I've put a lot of work into my game," James said. "It's been a by-product of that."
Going into Tuesday's game needing just seven points to reach the career milestone, James took to Instagram earlier in the day to congratulate himself in a post that read like a letter to his younger self.
Wanna be one of the first to Congratulate you on this accomplishment/achievement tonight that you'll reach! Only a handful has reach/seen it too and while I know it's never been a goal of yours from the beginning try(please try) to take a moment for yourself on how you've done it! The House you're about to be apart of has only 6 seats in it(as of now) but 1 more will be added and you should be very proud and honored to be invited inside. There's so many people to thank who has help this even become possible(so thank them all) and when u finally get your moment(alone) to yourself smile, look up to the higher skies and say THANK YOU! So with that said, Congrats again Young King 🤴🏾! 1 Love! #striveforgreatness🚀 #thekidfromakron👑
After Tuesday's game, he said the post was designed to "psych" himself out.
"I'm looking forward to the moment when I can be done with the game and I can sit back with my family and friends," James said. "We can sit back, drink some wine, talk about all the accomplishments I've had and the feats I've accomplished.
"I even tried to psych myself out today with my Instagram post. Tell me to take some time. I don't know how to do it. I've never been able to do it -- when I got 25,000 or 20,000, MVPs, rookie of the year, won a championship. I haven't had time to really just sit and appreciate the journey I've been on, and I don't want to because I think it's allowed me to stay on the path I've been on."
NBA commissioner Adam Silver was among those to commend James on the achievement.
"Congratulations to LeBron on reaching 30,000 points," Silver said in a statement. "Yet another milestone in an extraordinary career that continues to inspire."
The Spurs' Danny Green said he didn't want to be the player who defended James on the milestone basket, but that's how it played out.
"He had two points when I got on him," Green said. "I told him I was going to hold him to four so he couldn't get to seven. But it's just my luck he scored six on me and gets the 30,000.
"Not much you can do. He hit some good shots. He's a great player. He's been getting double figures since he's been playing. Great to see him accomplish that as a friend; but as a competitor, I hated to see him score on me."
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich recognized the milestone.
"It's an awesome achievement, but what else do you say about LeBron that we haven't said many times before?" Popovich said. "Just a great, great competitor and a great player."
James is averaging 27 points per game this season, his highest scoring average since 2013-14, when he played for the Miami Heat. In a win against the Washington Wizards in November, James had 57 points, the second-highest single-game scoring total of his 15-year career.
He needed 25 points on Saturday to reach the milestone at home, but he finished with just 18 in a 148-124 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
"I'm not a player who sets out to say, 'OK, I need to dominate scoring,'" James said. "For me, if you know my career, I try to dominate in all facets -- rebounding, assisting, defending, getting some blocked shots, chasing down and I'm going to sprinkle in some scoring, as well. But I'm not a ... when you categorize who I am as a basketball player, it won't say 'scorer.'
"There's too much more attributes to my game, and then you can talk about scoring, as well. I'm joining elite company. When I walk into the 30 [thousand]-point club, they're going to look at me like, 'What are you doing here?' I ain't supposed to be there."
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue, who for the sake of comparison scored 4,710 points in his 11-year career, said the achievement was especially notable because James is such an unselfish player.
"It's a great accomplishment, great achievement," Lue said after the game. "I wish we could've won the game, but for a guy who's always been pass-first and looking to make his teammates better, to be the youngest guy to score 30,000 points is a great accomplishment."
Cavs guard Dwyane Wade, who also was teamed with James on the Heat when James became the youngest player to reach 20,000 points, was glad to be there to share in the moment.
"Just incredibly happy that I could be here to witness something so historic in the game of basketball, that I could be on the court during that moment for him," Wade said after Tuesday's contest. "Just told him I'm proud of him ... 'congratulations.'
"That's the biggest thing. You see a person's work ethic. You know a person's heart. You know a person cares about team, cares about winning and don't really know how to take it. Even though he's had a lot of individual success and awards, [James] really don't feel comfortable with some of it. But you appreciate greatness. He's one of my best friends, but I appreciate greatness."
If James averages 20 points per game and plays 70 games a season, he would need approximately five more seasons to pass Abdul-Jabbar for No. 1 on the all-time scoring list.
Wade offered a prediction of where James will finish on the list.
"Well, if he stays healthy and he plays as long as he wants to play, No. 1 or No. 2," Wade told ESPN. "I definitely think that with his game and his body, he's going to average 20 points in this league as long as he wants to and wants to play. So, if not [No.] 1, he's definitely going to be No. 2."