LeBron James rang in his 36th birthday by extending his scoring streak to quadruple digits Wednesday.
James' jump hook with 6:15 remaining in the second quarter against the host San Antonio Spurs gave him 11 points for the game, marking the 1,000th consecutive NBA game with 10 points or more for the Los Angeles Lakers superstar.
He finished with 26 points in a 121-107 Lakers victory.
"I just go out there and try to prepare and be the best every night I step on the floor," James said after the game. "If I'm in uniform, I've got to do things that help our team win. If it's scoring, rebounding, defending, assisting, doing little things. Just be available for my teammates throughout the course of the game when I'm on the floor, also on the bench. And I've been fortunate enough to do that throughout my career for the majority of it."
James already passed Michael Jordan for the longest double-digit scoring streak in league history on March 30, 2018. He scored 27 points against the New Orleans Pelicans to move up to No. 1 on the league's all-time list with 867 consecutive games of at least 10 points.
The most recent time James scored fewer than 10 points was on Jan. 5, 2007, when he finished with eight points against the Milwaukee Bucks. During the streak, he has usually cleared the 10-point mark without a worry; however, there were three times he finished with exactly 10 points.
Before the game against the Spurs, Lakers coach Frank Vogel said he was unaware of the approaching milestone.
"I did not know about that stat," Vogel said during a videoconference with reporters. "But certainly we'll make sure the ball is in his hands plenty tonight."
Vogel also put the decision in James' hands on how he would like to be serenaded on his big day.
"We don't have any rookies to sing him 'Happy Birthday,' so he didn't get that yet," Vogel said. "I gave him the option to choose a teammate or teammates to sing 'Happy Birthday' for him, and he chose to wait until after the game. So that may or may not happen. We'll see."
Lakers forward Anthony Davis shook his head in amazement when asked about James' scoring streak.
"It's good, because we know we're able to build a team and build our schemes around it," Davis said. "It's good when you have a consistent player, and it makes our jobs a lot easier."
Point guard Dennis Schroder said he saw James' latest statistical feat on Instagram after the game and approached James to show it to him on his phone.
"He's a hell of a teammate, a hell of a player, and he's a legend," Schroder said.
James, who was 18 years old when he entered the NBA, played on his birthday for the eighth time in his career. Coming into Wednesday, he had the highest scoring average of any player in NBA history playing on his birthday at 32.9 points per game (minimum five games played), according to Elias Sports Bureau research. Dominique Wilkins is second at 32.7 points, and Shaquille O'Neal, who once scored 61 points on his birthday while playing for the Lakers, averaged 29.4.
James came into the night with the most points before age 36 in NBA history with 34,332. Lakers greats Kobe Bryant (second with 31,700), Wilt Chamberlain (third with 30,335) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (fourth with 29,779) trail right behind. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who would be James' coach with the U.S. team this summer if he opts in for the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo, marveled at James' longevity.
"It's a tribute to both his intelligence level and his tenacity, his character, his commitment to excellence," Popovich said during a videoconference with reporters. "You combine those things and you get what we see in LeBron James after all of these years. He looks pretty much like when he first came into the league.
"He deserves a lot of credit for being the consummate professional, using every technique that he can, being on the cutting edge of things. So, his mental state along with his physical state really makes him very special, probably more than anybody who has ever played the game."
Before hitting a low-key postgame celebration at the team hotel that James said would involve wine, tequila and social distancing, the 18-year veteran reflected on his journey.
"I would be lying if I could sit here and I could tell you that I can wrap my head around it. It doesn't make sense. But I just try to take full advantage of the opportunity that I've been given," James said. "I believe I was one of the chosen ones, not only in my community but to make a difference both playing the sport that I play but just making a difference off the floor.
"And I just try to take full advantage of it and don't disrespect the gift or the hand that was given to me. Both from the man above, but also from my support system when I was growing up, on telling me to be great."