LeBron James’ shooting hand was partially numb on the jumper that made history.
The shot still went down, points 20,000 and 20,001. Turns out, when you have a feel for the game like James, sometimes you don’t even need to feel the ball.
James, 28 years and 17 days old, became the youngest player in NBA history to score 20,000 career points on Wednesday in the Heat’s 92-75 blowout of the Golden State Warriors. His milestone-setting basket came with 2:45 left in the first half. He also reached the 5,000-assist plateau during the game.
James hyper-extended his right thumb with about 3:30 left in the second quarter during a defensive sequence against Warriors reserve Carl Landry. James attempted to shake some feeling back into his hand but still felt numbness when, on the Heat’s next offensive possession, he created space for himself in the middle of the lane for an open shot. With one hand, James pushed up the shot that put him in elite company with some of the game’s all-time greats.
“The best part about it was it was in rhythm,” James said. “It wasn’t one of those forced shots.”
James entered the game needing two assists to reach 5,000 and earned that milestone in style, dishing off to a cutting Dwyane Wade in the first quarter. Wade finished the play with a dunk.
After the game, the Heat’s players and coaches congratulated James on his accomplishments with a touching moment it the visiting locker room of Oracle Arena.
“Everybody was proud of him,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It’s a big moment. We gave him the game ball and then everyone took a shot at him — a punch, a jab, an elbow, whatever they could get in before he started hitting back.”
For James, celebrating with his teammates was something he’ll never forget. After all, he has spent a career getting his teammates involved in the action. James’ 5,000 career assists places him in rarified company. Only 12 players in the history of the game have recorded 20,000 points, 5,000 rebounds and 5,000 assists in a career.
“It was awesome,” James said. “They’ve given me an opportunity to be in this position because they trust me on the floor to make plays and make decisions. Both milestones are pretty cool.”
The Heat led the Warriors by 30 points entering the fourth quarter. The runaway score allowed James to immerse himself in the occasion. He finished the game with 25 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists.
The Warriors had 21 turnovers, including 19 before the fourth quarter. For the Heat (25-12), the victory came as a relief after losing three of its first four games of the road trip. Miami can finish the six-game swing on a high note with a victory against the Lakers on Thursday.
The win against Golden State was the Heat’s first win against a team with a winning record since Christmas. Miami is 9-9 on the road.
The Warriors scored just 12 points in the third quarter and shot 36.3 percent from the field in the game. Playing without starting point guard Stephen Curry, Golden State fell behind early despite a raucous crowd. The Warriors’ high number of turnovers allowed the Heat to pull away despite shooting just 40 percent overall.
“That’s what we’ve been always talking about and we’re trying to get to that consistency,” Spoelstra said of the Heat’s defensive pressure. “It’s not easy. We don’t have any excuses why we haven’t gotten there yet, but we have plenty of opportunities to still get there and hopefully we can also put to rest everything that happened the other night.”
Spoelstra benched Wade and Chris Bosh on Monday in the Heat’s loss to the Jazz. Wednesday’s victory allowed Wade and Bosh to watch from the bench in the final period for a more positive reason.
Wade finished the game with 15 points to go along with eight rebounds and six assists. Bosh had 11 points and six rebounds. Mario Chalmers scored 15 points in 27 minutes.
Guard Jarrett Jack led the Warriors (23-14) with 16 points. Forward David Lee had 12 points and 11 rebounds.