OKC Thunder face Lakers on what could be a historic night for LeBron

OKC Thunder face Lakers where LeBron James (6) could be setting historic marker : David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
OKC Thunder face Lakers where LeBron James (6) could be setting historic marker : David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /

The OKC Thunder are in LA tonight to complete the back-to-back set having gotten blown out 114-141 by the Warriors on Monday. While there are 82 games played each season there are certain games that carry more importance and this match versus the Lakers falls into that special territory.

There are a handful of records in sports that enter the pantheon of exceptional achievements and establish benchmarks that may never be broken. For example:

  • NHL: Wayne Gretzky: 1,963 career assists.
  • NFL: Jerry Rice: 22,895 receiving yards.
  • Gymnastics: Simone Biles: 19 world gymnastics gold medals.
  • NFL: Emmett Smith’s 18,355 rushing yards
  • MLB: Cal Ripken Jr.: 2,632 consecutive games played.

In the NBA there are a few distinct records that fall into this territory as well:

  • John Stockton’s 15,806 assists, with Jason Kidd (12,091) the closest to him. Two active players sit third and fourth — Chris Paul (11,271) and LeBron James (10,351) who just moved past Mark Jackson and Steve Nash last week.  The fact CP3 still trails Stockton by 4,535 assists punctuates how untouchable this record is.
  • Celtics win eight consecutive titles – think about how hard it is to repeat especially with so much parity in the NBA now and this sure feels like a lifetime record.
  • It’s not the NBA but the UConn Huskies women’s basketball 111-game winning streak deserves mention here.

Of course, there is the unicorn — Wilt Chamberlain who possesses more unique records than any other individual athlete in the NBA.  For example, he averaged 50.4 points per game in the 1961-62 season and scored 100 points in a single game.

In 1960-61 he averaged 27.2 rebounds and if that doesn’t impress you consider the fact he averaged 22.9 rebounds for his CAREER!  Chamberlain holds 68 individual records all his own and in an era where scoring and offense are robust, these are outliers that are unparalleled.

LeBron James is on the precipice of history

Tonight another such outlier could be usurped as LeBron James eyes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record for all-time point total. Jabbar scored 38,387 points in his 20-year career using the sublime sky hook shot that to this day nobody has been able to emulate – a testament all on its own.

Punctuating the impressiveness of this record is how long Abdul-Jabbar has sat on the top rung for all-time scoring. He took over the position on April 5 of 1984 — for those counting, that’s two months shy of four decades!

The stage is set for the record to be passed this evening if LeBron James scores 36 points, and if not he’s sure to do it on Thursday. Either way, this is heady stuff and while records are made to be broken let’s just say there’s a very good chance LeBron will sit atop that ladder for possibly four decades or more himself.

OKC Thunder could put their own spin on a historic night

As for the OKC Thunder, they’ll get a front-row seat to what could be a historic night. Moreover, all eyes will be on this game as the NBA world at large will be tuned in to see if LeBron breaks the record.

Although the Lakers are used to being on national TV on a weekly basis the OKC Thunder aren’t. In fact, this is the second time this season they land on TNT because of a schedule change as the basketball gods smile upon them.

Reaching a wider audience is essential to building excitement around a team, the players, and the market, and gaining that access is like gold.  Ja Morant called out the league last season for ignoring the Grizzlies. In response, the league granted Memphis several games this year in addition to the holiday game.

Granted, Memphis is winning, but clearly winning isn’t the sole driver for which teams get featured. It’s definitely part of the equation with 2022 home-court seeds still prominently featured with the exception of the Jazz who were expected to be tanking.  But the Nuggets, Suns, Celtics, Bucks, Heat, and 76ers are prominently featured.

As are the Lakers, Clippers, Warriors, Nets, and Knicks who frankly would be featured regardless of how well they perform because they reside in what is considered the ‘glamor markets’.  Of the glamor-tier teams, the Lakers by far are featured the most.

Virtually every week at least one of the Lakers games is on TNT, ESPN, and/or ABC.  In terms of placement, LA is currently in the 13th seed one rung lower than the OKC Thunder with one extra loss than OKC but identical wins (25).

This season, Charles Barkley has taken a hard stance about his distaste for how frequently the Lakers are featured on the marquee TNT NBA games considering their record. Sir Charles was also arguably the loudest advocate for Shai Gilgeous Alexander to be voted in as an All-Star starting guard.

I suspect Barkley knew it was a long shot SGA would beat out Luka Doncic or Steph Curry, but by making the argument it put Gilgeous-Alexander’s in the minds of all those coaches who picked the reserves (not like SGA didn’t make it impossible to ignore him).

Tonight is the perfect opportunity for the  OKC Thunder and Gilgeous-Alexander to show casual fans who they are. And for those who don’t typically watch the Thunder announce they will be a factor in the very near future.

While history will be on everyone’s minds, the main focus is the game. Let LeBron score 36 but shut down everyone else and most importantly GET THAT W!

dark. Next. A cautionary tale for the OKC Thunder and developing teams