LOS ANGELES - LeBron James wept.
The tears flowed Tuesday night after the Los Angeles Lakers star overtook Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA's all-time leading scorer.
After months of anticipation, the record-breaking shot finally came - a 14-foot turnaround jumper with 10.9 seconds left in the third quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder. At that moment, James eclipsed the record of 38,387 points that stood for almost 40 years.
The game was stopped to pay tribute to James and his accomplishment as James called his wife and three children onto the court.
"I would never, ever in a million years dreamt this any better than it was tonight,'' James, 38, told the crowd after the tears had finally dried.
They were sliding down his face when he hugged Abdul-Jabbar, the Lakers Hall-of-Fame center.
They were filling his eyes when NBA commissioner Adam Silver stood on the court and officially announced the record.
Then came the hug with his mother, Gloria, who was 16 when she gave birth to James in Akron, Ohio. A single mother, she helped guide LeBron onto the path of stardom.
In the crowd, one fan held up a sign that read, "A kid from Akron is the scoring king.''
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There was the hug with Magic Johnson, who helped convince James to sign with the Lakers in 2018 and set up this moment.
The kid from Akron was the star among the stars Tuesday, on a night when a sellout crowd of 18,997 included Jay-Z, Denzel Washington, Shannon Sharpe, John McEnroe, LL Cool J, Floyd Mayweather, Bad Bunny, Phil Knight and Dwyane Wade. A recorded message of congratulations from President Joe Biden played on the scoreboard.
Eventually, James ended up with the microphone and addressed the crowd, but not before the fans bathed him in chants of "M-V-P.''
"I just want to say thank you to the Laker faithful,'' he said. "You're one of a kind.''
The Laker faithful roared.
"To be able to be in the presence of such a great as Kareem means so much to me,'' he said. "It's very humbling. Please give a standing ovation to the Captain, Kareem.''
More loud cheers, and James finished by thanking his family, his friends, the NBA and everyone that has been on this run with him for the past 20 years.
"I thank you so much because I wouldn't be me without you all.''
Then, at the very end of the tribute, as if he'd run out of words, there was an f-bomb.
"(Expletive), man,'' he said with a grin. "Thank you.''
Later, Abdul-Jabbar praised James for that "indefinable essence that they call leadership.
"He gets out there on the court and tries to get things done,'' Abdul-Jabbar said during a postgame interview on TNT. "Guys want to get behind that and see that that happens because they have that much respect for him and his talent.''
But as has happened often this season, James' heroics weren't enough to save the Lakers. He scored a game-high 38 points but the Lakers lost to the Thunder, 133-130, and their record dropped to 25-30.
On this night, however, that seemed like an afterthought. Hundreds of fans waited after the final buzzer to watch James conduct postgame TV interviews on the court, and several fans shouted the same four words.
"I love you, LeBron!''
At his postgame news conference, LeBron addressed his emotional display earlier in the night.
"I can probably count on my hands how many times I've cried in 20 years, either in happiness or defeat,'' he said, adding that on Tuesday night he shed "I-can't-believe-what's-going-on tears."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: LeBron cries, gives thanks, drops f-bomb after setting NBA record