LeBron James was left struggling to comprehend the "crazy" journey that led to him surpassing Kobe Bryant's all-time NBA points tally on Saturday.

Los Angeles Lakers star James leapfrogged the retired Bryant into third among the competition's most prolific scorers when he completed a layup in the third quarter of a 108-91 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Though the result somewhat spoiled the milestone, James spoke after the game in detail about his admiration for Bryant and recounted his earliest meetings with the retired Lakers great.

The formative encounters included a brush at a youth basketball camp at age 15 and receiving a pair of shoes from the eventual five-time NBA champion at the 2002 All-Star Game.

"It's too much. The story, it's too much. It doesn't make sense," James told reporters when asked about overtaking Bryant.

"To make a long story short, now I'm here in a Lakers uniform, in Philadelphia, where he's from, where I met him for one of the first times in All-Star week, it's surreal.

"It doesn't make sense, but the universe puts things in your life... things happen organically, and it's not supposed to make sense, but it just happens.

"I'm happy to be in any conversation with Kobe Bryant, one of the all-time greatest basketball players, one of the all-time greatest Lakers. The man's got two jerseys hanging up in Staples Center. It's just crazy."

The 35-year-old found it easier to sum up his appreciation for Ben Simmons, who led the 76ers to victory at Wells Fargo Center with 28 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

James (29 points) said he looked forward to sitting courtside and observing Simmons when the time comes for him to join Bryant in retirement.

"That's pretty much how I'm going to be when I'm done playing," he said.

"Being able to come back and watch this beautiful game, hopefully there's somebody playing the game at a high level.

"Like that guy across the hallway, Ben Simmons, I can sit and watch him and see how much he continues to grow, watch him and see him continue to do what he does, because he's growing every day."

Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers ruined a memorable moment for Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James, while the Utah Jazz defused Luka Doncic on Saturday.

Four-time MVP James passed Kobe Bryant and rose to third for all-time NBA points during the third quarter in Philadelphia, but the Lakers failed to crown the occasion in style as they lost 108-91.

Simmons stole the limelight, scoring 28 points on 12-of-15 shooting to go with 10 rebounds and eight assists.

The 76ers, still missing Joel Embiid, withstood a fourth-quarter Lakers recovery before sealing their fifth victory in six games.

The Dallas Mavericks, meanwhile, led for three quarters before collapsing to a 112-107 loss to the Jazz, who have now won four straight.

Rudy Gobert registered a double-double with 22 points and 17 rebounds, while Donovan Mitchell's 25-point haul included two clutch three-pointers in Utah's fourth-quarter comeback.

 

Irving ignites the Nets

Kyrie Irving snapped the Brooklyn Nets out of a five-game losing streak as he put up 45 points in 121-111 overtime win against the Detroit Pistons.

Brooklyn rallied back from a double-digit deficit to take a late lead, only for Derrick Rose to force an extra period with a brilliant finish at the basket with 1.9 seconds left on the clock.

The Nets, though, eventually pulled away in OT thanks to strong performances from Irving and Jarrett Allen (20 points, 15 rebounds).

Karl-Anthony Towns dropped 37 points but the Minnesota Timberwolves suffered a 113-104 defeat against the streaking Oklahoma City Thunder, while Zach LaVine (40 points, 10 rebounds) guided the Chicago Bulls to a 118-106 victory over the struggling Cleveland Cavaliers.

 

Doncic goes cold beyond the arc

MVP candidate Doncic had 25 points for the Mavs but the new All-Star struggled from three-point range against the Jazz, hitting just two of his 10 attempts.

 

LeBron betters the Black Mamba

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) and Karl Malone (36,928) were the only men left leading James (33,655) on the all-time points tally following his third-quarter layup at Wells Fargo Center.

 

Saturday's results

Utah Jazz 112-107 Dallas Mavericks
Brooklyn Nets 121-111 Detroit Pistons (OT)
Chicago Bulls 118-106 Cleveland Cavaliers
Oklahoma City Thunder 113-104 Minnesota Timberwolves
Philadelphia 76ers 108-91 Los Angeles Lakers

 

Rockets at Nuggets

The Denver Nuggets (31-14) have the chance to avenge Wednesday's road loss to the Houston Rockets (28-16) when the teams square off at Pepsi Center on Sunday.

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James moved past Kobe Bryant and into third for for most all-time points in the NBA.

James needed just 18 points to surpass Bryant during the Lakers' clash against the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday.

The star leapfrogged Bryant (33,643) during the third quarter at Wells Fargo Center.

Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) and Karl Malone (36,928) have scored more NBA points than James.

James was averaging 25.2 points, 10.8 assists and 7.7 rebounds heading into the clash with the 76ers.

The Dallas Mavericks have acquired center Willie Cauley-Stein from the Golden State Warriors for the Utah Jazz's second-round pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.

Dallas consequently waived Justin Patton just 24 hours after receiving him and cash considerations from the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Isaiah Roby.

The Mavs were in the market for a starting center after Dwight Powell sustained a ruptured right Achilles on Tuesday.

Five-year center Cauley-Stein averaged 7.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game in 41 appearances for the Warriors, who he joined as a free agent in the offseason.

Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard posted his first career triple-double in the NBA, while Russell Westbrook starred for the Houston Rockets on Friday.

Leonard's 33 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists helped the Clippers overcome the Miami Heat 122-117.

Montrezl Harrell (15 points and 11 rebounds) and JaMychal Green (14 and 10) had double-doubles.

Jimmy Butler was unable to lift Miami to a victory, finishing with 20 points, eight rebounds and seven assists while going six-of-15 from the field.

Westbrook's 45 points, 10 assists and six rebounds saw the Rockets past the Minnesota Timberwolves 131-124.

Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns contributed 30 points and 12 rebounds for Minnesota.

Giannis stars in Paris as Lowry lifts Raptors

In Paris, Giannis Antetokounmpo had 30 points in the Milwaukee Bucks' 116-103 win over the Charlotte Hornets.

Kyle Lowry's 26 points, six rebounds and three assists helped defending champions the Toronto Raptors past the New York Knicks 118-112.

Nikola Jokic starred for the Denver Nuggets, finishing with 27 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in a 113-106 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Zion Williamson played 21 minutes for the Pelicans, going seven-of-nine from the field for 15 points.

 

Harden wayward for Rockets

James Harden struggled from the field, going three-of-13 for 12 points in 34 minutes in the Rockets' win.

 

Tremendous Turner

Myles Turner produced a huge dunk during the Indiana Pacers' win over the Golden State Warriors.

Friday's results

Milwaukee Bucks 116-103 Charlotte Hornets
Memphis Grizzlies 125-112 Detroit Pistons
Boston Celtics 109-98 Orlando Magic
Toronto Raptors 118-112 New York Knicks
Los Angeles Clippers 122-117 Miami Heat
Sacramento Kings 98-81 Chicago Bulls
Houston Rockets 131-124 Minnesota Timberwolves
Denver Nuggets 113-106 New Orleans Pelicans
Oklahoma City Thunder 140-111 Atlanta Hawks
Phoenix Suns 103-99 San Antonio Spurs
Indiana Pacers 129-118 Golden State Warriors

 

Lakers at 76ers

The high-flying Los Angeles Lakers (36-9) visit the Philadelphia 76ers (29-17) on Saturday.

LeBron James and Luka Doncic celebrated their All-Star selections with brilliant performances in valuable NBA road victories on Thursday.

James, who will captain Team LeBron against Team Giannis in Chicago next month, led the Los Angeles Lakers to a gritty 128-113 win over the Brooklyn Nets.

The 35-year-old posted a triple-double with 27 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists to spoil Kyrie Irving's return after a game out with hamstring tightness.

The former Cleveland Cavaliers team-mates were facing each other for the first time since Irving (20 points) joined the Nets in July 2019.

Doncic gained his first All-Star selection after topping the Western Conference backcourt vote and then inspired the Dallas Mavericks to a 133-125 win against the Portland Trail Blazers.

His nine assists and team-high 27 points ensured 47 from Damian Lillard went in vain as the Mavs prevailed for the fifth time in six games.

Beal brilliant in Wizards' win

After losing to the Heat in Miami, the Washington Wizards bounced back to defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers 124-112.

Bradley Beal went 15 of 22 from the field for 36 points and eight assists in a sublime performance at Quicken Loans Arena.

 

Simons fizzles in losing cause

Lillard and Carmelo Anthony (16 points) had to be productive for the beaten Trail Blazers given Anfernee Simons' struggles on home court.

The 20-year-old guard contributed just five points in 23 minutes on the floor.

 

AD denies Kyrie!

Anthony Davis sent a message to Irving and the Nets with a huge rejection in the third quarter.

Thursday's results

Washington Wizards 124-112 Cleveland Cavaliers
Los Angeles Lakers 128-113 Brooklyn Nets
Dallas Mavericks 133-125 Portland Trail Blazers 

 

Clippers at Heat

Providing he overcomes knee soreness, Jimmy Butler will seek to prove he should have been an All-Star starter when the Miami Heat (31-13) host the Los Angeles Clippers (31-14) on Friday.

LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo will return as NBA All-Star team captains after leading the vote for February's showpiece contest in Chicago.

Three newcomers – Luka Doncic, Trae Young and Pascal Siakam – will also take the floor for the 69th edition of the annual exhibition game.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar James captained Team LeBron to victory over Team Giannis in 2019 and the pair will renew their rivalry at United Center on February 16.

James, an All-Star for the 16th year of his illustrious career, will have the chance to draft Dallas Mavericks sensation Doncic onto his team for the first time, the MVP contender a walk-up selection amid a brilliant sophomore season in the NBA.

All-Star regulars James Harden, Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard round out the Western Conference starter pool.

Atlanta Hawks guard Young topped the count among Eastern Conference backcourt options to secure a start alongside the Boston Celtics' Kemba Walker.

The pair gained selection ahead of four-time All Star Jimmy Butler and the Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons, who scored poorly in the fan portion of the vote.

Siakam's selection comes after averaging a career-best 23.5 points per game for the Toronto Raptors this season, while injury troubles failed to prevent Joel Embiid from sealing a frontcourt berth.

Fan ballots were weighted at 50 per cent, while current players and the media contributed 25 per cent of the starter vote.

Captains James and Antetokounmpo will select their teams from the eight other starters, while NBA head coaches will be responsible for choosing the 14 reserves that will be announced on January 30.

 

Eastern Conference starters:

Trae Young (Atlanta Hawks), Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics), Pascal Siakam (Toronto Raptors), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks), Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)

Western Conference starters:

James Harden (Houston Rockets), Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks), Kawhi Leonard (Los Angeles Clippers), LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers), Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers)

Zion Williamson certainly announced his arrival to the NBA on Wednesday night.

The first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft had 22 points, seven rebounds and three assists in 18 minutes of action for the New Orleans Pelicans in their 121-117 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.

Williamson had been sidelined since preseason due to a knee injury but dazzled in his debut, scoring 17 straight points at one point and hitting all four of his three-point attempts.

But how did other NBA greats fare in their first games?

 

Bill Russell - 6 points, 16 rebounds, one assist (December 22, 1956)

Prior to Russell's NBA debut, the Boston Globe had asked whether it was possible to "be too good to be overrated". No pressure, kid. 

Russell did not make any of his four free throws and went 3-of-11 shooting in 16 minutes. However, a man who would go on to be an 11-time NBA champion shone in other facets, grabbing 16 boards and blocking three straight Bob Pettit shots.

Wilt Chamberlain - 43 points, 28 rebounds, one assist (October 24, 1959)

A star at high school and college, the 7ft 1in center's bow for the Philadelphia Warriors was eagerly anticipated and he did not disappoint, racking up the points and rebounds.

It was a sign of things to come and Chamberlain won both the Rookie of the Year and MVP awards in his first season.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - 29 points, 12 rebounds, six assists (October 18, 1969)

The broadcast of this debut included the line "the whole country has waited for it", a reflection of the attention the 7ft 1in Milwaukee Bucks center commanded at the time.

Abdul-Jabbar, then known as Lew Alcindor, scored 29 of his NBA record 38,387 points that night and he went on to be named to 19 All-Star Games.

Magic Johnson - 26 points, eight rebounds, four assists (October 12, 1979)

The first overall pick in the 1979 NBA Draft came to a Lakers team that featured Abdul-Jabbar, and it was the veteran's buzzer-beater that delivered the win against the San Diego Clippers.

A pumped-up Johnson certainly impressed, though, and his zeal for the game was evident when he jumped on Abdul-Jabbar amid wild celebrations at the end.

Larry Bird - 14 points, 10 rebounds, five assists (October 12, 1979)

Johnson was not the only future Hall of Famer debuting on that night in October 1979 as Celtics great Bird was also making his first appearance.

The Lakers man might have had more points, but Bird had the double-double and he, not Johnson, would go on to be named Rookie of the Year. Both men won three MVPs and were named to 12 All-Star Games.

Michael Jordan - 16 points, six rebounds, seven assists (October 26, 1984)

There was little indication of what was to come when Jordan put up solid but not spectacular numbers against the Washington Bullets.

He would soon find his groove, though, averaging 28.2 points in a campaign that ended with the Rookie of the Year award. Five MVPs and six championships would follow for perhaps the greatest of them all.

LeBron James - 25 points, six rebounds, nine assists (October 29, 2003)

A man well-versed in dealing with insane hype, James' NBA debut for his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers was delayed because another game went into overtime and ESPN did not want TV audiences to miss a second of the 18-year-old's bow.

Cleveland lost but 'The Chosen One' delivered exactly what the television executives were looking for, a steal and a dunk providing the first of many highlight-reel plays the four-time MVP would produce.

LeBron James reminded reporters his son Bronny is in the ninth grade and any NBA plans are a long way off.

NBA great LeBron has spoken in the past of the possibility of playing alongside Bronny, who is currently at Sierra Canyon High School.

But after scoring 21 points in a Los Angeles Lakers win at Madison Square Garden, the four-time MVP was taken aback by a question about the possibility of the two linking up for the New York Knicks down the line.

LeBron was asked if he would consider a switch to the Knicks if Bronny, still just 15, was drafted by New York in years to come.

The 35-year-old laughed and replied: "My son's in ninth grade, man.

"We're trying to worry about what project we're turning in tomorrow. That's what we're worried about now.

"That's what's most important: school, home, and being the best big brother he can be."

Alvin Gentry and Jrue Holiday believe there is even more to come from Zion Williamson after his impressive NBA debut for the New Orleans Pelicans.

The number one overall draft pick belatedly made his regular-season bow following knee surgery, scoring 22 points - including 17 in a stunning fourth-quarter stretch - in the 121-117 defeat to the San Antonio Spurs.

Williamson made each of his four three-pointers following a slow start, and head coach Gentry quickly saw progress in his game.

"I think you'll see that in him," Gentry said. "It's his first NBA game, but I think the third time he went out there he was much more comfortable, much more aggressive.

"He found out that everybody makes mistakes and he just continued to play through them. I think, for him, it was just a relief to have one game under his belt.

"And now all of this goes away: first game, first game, first game. Now he can just play and get himself in a situation where he can continue to learn and continue to grow."

Gentry saw evidence of Williamson's "really, really high ceiling" but had to take the 19-year-old out of the game with more than five minutes left on doctors' orders.

"It was going to be a learning experience either way - if he played well, if he didn't play well," the coach said.

"I think the big thing is that he was much more aggressive during that situation. We talked at half-time, as I thought he was deferring way too much and I wanted him to be aggressive.

"I knew that he would make some mistakes, but I think what you saw there is a taste of what [is to come]. Once we get settled in and he gets settled in, there are a lot of things that we can do with him.

"There's a lot of potential there. It was good to see him do that. But I think there's a really, really high ceiling that he can reach. We'll just continue on, continue to practice.

"And no, he couldn't go back in the game. So don't go there. The medical people said that was it.

"We've got to be smart about it. I'm pretty sure Sean [Payton, New Orleans Saints coach] wouldn't take Drew Brees out in that situation. But we've got to be smart about it.

"We have to look long term and not one game, short term, and put him out there extended minutes. We were not going to do that in any situation.

"I think he made his point and he will continue to get better. But we can't sacrifice his whole future for one short-term thing."

Team-mate Holiday is certainly excited about what is to come, appearing alongside Williamson at a post-game news conference and interrupting one question to explain there is no return to "normal" when it comes to the teenager.

"This is going to be normal for him," Holiday said. "The way he plays, this is something he could do every day.

"We're here to help him and obviously for him to contribute to us and help us out, too. But with him being back, he's waited a long time for this and he's really excited to play - speaking for Zion."

Zion Williamson enjoyed a "dream" NBA debut, but was frustrated he could not mark it with a New Orleans Pelicans win.

Finally fit to play for the first time this season after knee surgery, the number one overall draft pick - viewed as a generational talent - played 18 minutes as the Pelicans lost 121-117 to the San Antonio Spurs.

Williamson started slowly before scoring 17 straight points for New Orleans in the fourth quarter, including four stunning three-pointers, to finish with 22 points, seven rebounds and three assists.

The former Duke sensation was keen to look towards a first victory, though, with the Denver Nuggets up next for the Pelicans on Friday.

"It was good to get out there, but I didn't get the outcome that I wanted," he told a news conference. "Got to get better and move onto the next.

"It was everything I dreamed of except for the losing part. The energy the crowd brought, the energy the city brought, it was electric. I'm grateful they did that.

"So, it was a dream come true to finally get out there, but, at the end of the day, I wanted to win, so just got to look at the next game."

Williamson, who described primitive 'MVP' chants as "different", said he felt "fine" after "that long rehab process", but he could not answer when he would be able to play a full game.

"Personally, I didn't want any restrictions, but I'm not a doctor or trainer," he added. "I've just got to listen to them."

And the teenager admitted some annoyance at having to bow out for Brandon Ingram with over five minutes remaining as the team manage his recovery.

"I'm 19, honestly," he explained. "In that moment, I'm not thinking about longevity. I'm thinking about winning that game. It was very tough."

Williamson acknowledged some benefits of his lay-off, though, believing his stunning run of three-pointers came due to his limited practice time in recent months.

"When you're not able to move around, do athletic movements for a while, the only thing you can do is shoot spot-up jumpers," added Williamson, who hit all four of his three-pointers.

"I guess that was a result of that."

Zion Williamson announced himself to the NBA with a thrilling taste of his talent on Wednesday, while James Harden and Russell Westbrook fuelled the Houston Rockets.

Huge expectations surrounded Williamson's long-awaited debut and the number one draft pick did not disappoint at 

The 19-year-old, having overcome knee surgery, erupted for 17 straight points in the fourth quarter to finish with a joint team-high 22, plus seven rebounds, through 18 minutes in the New Orleans Pelicans' 121-117 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.

LaMarcus Aldridge led the Spurs with 32 points and 14 rebounds, while DeMar DeRozan added 20 points.

Harden and Westbrook put on their own show in Houston, combining for 55 points as the Rockets topped the Denver Nuggets 121-105.

Fred VanVleet made six of his seven three-point attempts to help the Toronto Raptors prevail 107-95 against the Philadelphia 76ers.

LeBron, Davis drive Lakers

LeBron James dropped 21 points and Anthony Davis had 28 as the Los Angeles Lakers downed the New York Knicks 100-92 at Madison Square Garden.

The win ensured the Lakers bounced back from their heavy loss to the Boston Celtics, who made it two wins on the trot with a 119-95 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies.

There was an overtime thriller in Miami, where Jimmy Butler recorded 24 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds to take the Heat to a 134-129 defeat of the Washington Wizards.

The Los Angeles Clippers' four-game winning streak came to a surprise end against the struggling Atlanta Hawks, who had John Collins to thank for 33 points and 16 rebounds in a 102-95 triumph.

 

Difficulty for Draymond

Draymond Green struggled on his return from illness as the Golden State Warriors slumped to 129-96 home loss to the Utah Jazz.

The three-time NBA champion played 25 minutes for five points, four rebounds and two assists in the rout.

 

Zion sends New Orleans into frenzy

Williamson lit up Smoothie King Center, proving a danger from beyond the arc as he went four from four from three-point range.

Wednesday's results

Utah Jazz 129-96 Golden State Warriors
Toronto Raptors 107-95 Philadelphia 76ers
Detroit Pistons 127-106 Sacramento Kings
Oklahoma City Thunder 120-114 Orlando Magic
Los Angeles Lakers 100-92 New York Knicks
Boston Celtics 119-95 Memphis Grizzlies
Miami Heat 134-129 Washington Wizards (OT)
Atlanta Hawks 102-95 Los Angeles Clippers
Chicago Bulls 117-110 Minnesota Timberwolves
Houston Rockets 121-105 Denver Nuggets
Indiana Pacers 112-87 Phoenix Suns
San Antonio Spurs 121-117 New Orleans Pelicans

 

Lakers at Nets

Kyrie Irving is expected to return from a hamstring problem when the Brooklyn Nets (18-24) host the Lakers (35-9) on Thursday.

New Orleans Pelicans sensation Zion Williamson finally made his NBA debut on Wednesday and it was worth the wait as he exploded against the San Antonio Spurs. 

Williamson's long-awaited bow yielded a joint team-high 22 points, seven rebounds and three assists through just 18 minutes in a 121-117 loss to the Spurs.

The much-hyped number one overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft was forced to wait for his debut, having undergone surgery on his knee the day before the Pelicans' campaign started in October.

Tipped to be the next league superstar, Williamson - likened to LeBron James and the face of the Pelicans after All-Star Anthony Davis moved to the Los Angeles Lakers in the offseason - finally returned to the court at home to the Spurs in New Orleans midweek.

It was a quiet opening for Williamson, who only managed five points through three quarters at Smoothie King Center.

However, the 19-year-old lit up the fourth quarter with 17 straight points in a stunning three-minute period - going four from four from three-point range.

Four players have been suspended after Tuesday's heated Big 12 college basketball clash between rivals Kansas and Kansas State ended in a melee.

Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa was hit with a 12-game ban, the heaviest sanction, after he raised a chair over his head amid the brawl.

De Sousa blocked DaJuan Gordon's layup attempt and stood over the guard at the end of the Jayhawks' 81-60 victory, sparking wild scenes as both benches became involved.

Gordon was given a three-game suspension, while fellow Kansas State player James Love will miss eight games.

De Sousa's Jayhawks team-mate David McCormack was banned for two games.

Big 12 Conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby said: "This kind of behaviour cannot be tolerated and these suspensions reflect the severity of last evening's events.

"I am appreciative of the cooperation of both institutions in resolving this matter."

De Sousa, 21, apologised for his "highly unacceptable behaviour" in a lengthy Twitter statement.

"I am truly embarrassed by my actions and have let everyone down who has supported me on my basketball journey," he wrote.

"There is no amount of regret that I can express that will correct this mistake."

Dallas Mavericks center Dwight Powell sustained a ruptured right Achilles and is facing surgery, the team announced on Wednesday.

The Mavs did not provide a time frame was provided for Powell's return, but it is feared the injury will end his season.

The second-round pick out of Stanford went down in the first quarter of the Mavs 110-107 defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday, his leg giving way as he drove to the basket.

Powell was averaging 9.4 points and 5.7 rebounds in 26.5 minutes per game for Dallas, who are on course to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2016 with a 27-16 record.

The 28-year-old was expected to play an important role for Canada in the June qualifying tournament for the 2020 Olympic Games.

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