LeBron James last week reached 38,388 career points in the NBA. In 1998, Cal Ripken completed his 2,632nd consecutive MLB game. Tiger Woods has spent 683 weeks as world No.1 in his career to date. What is it about these achievements and milestones that we find so interesting as sports fans?
For some, it is the excitement of witnessing greatness, and seeing with your own eyes, in real time, a moment that might never be repeated. For others, there is huge joy in seeing the envelope being pushed in a sport they are hugely passionate about, a prime example being Usain Bolt's 100m and 200m records in 2009 which remain firmly undefeated. For me, I find the ability for top level athletes to remain motivated for such a long period of time truly inspiring. LeBron & Tiger are billionaires, and could comfortably hang up their respective sneakers and golf shoes knowing that no 'GOAT' discussion will ever take place without their names being mentioned, but what is it that keeps them going?
For the likes of Lebron, Tiger, Messi, Ronaldo, Djokovic, Nadal... I believe the drive is deeper than legacy, or simply shattering records. It comes from a deeply engrained and unshakable requirement that when their athletic careers finally come to an end, they can rest easy knowing there was simply no more they could possibly achieve. Cross generational 'GOAT' discussions will never be successfully concluded - Tiger vs Jack, Marciano vs Mayweather, Williams vs Graf - and quite frankly, it doesn't matter.
We often talk of role models in sport, and ultimately anyone looking at some of the names above and trying to seek inspiration from them, should take note of their sheer determination, commitment and undeniable drive to look back at their careers when all is said and done, having left absolutely nothing on the table.
On Tuesday night in Los Angeles, LeBron James hit a 14-foot fadeaway jump shot over Kenrich Williams of the Oklahoma City Thunder with 11 seconds left in the third quarter, to score his 36th point in the game and 38,388th point of his 20-year career, passing Abdul-Jabbar on the league’s all-time scoring list.