Kareem's double-digit scoring streak ends at 787 games
MILWAUKEE (Dec. 4, 1987) - You couldn’t blame Pat Riley for being caught up in the moment on this night 30 years ago today when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s NBA record of 787 consecutive games of scoring in double figures came to an end.
“He ought to be celebrated,” Riley said of the goggled one, who remains the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. “It’s one of the most incredible streaks that shows consistency and greatness in the annals of sport. It’s never going to be done again.”
Well, a guy named Michael Jordan came along and tacked on nearly 100 games as he set the new mark of 866 games, and LeBron James surpassed Abdul-Jabbar’s mark last April, and he continues on in his quest to break Jordan’s record. If LeBron doesn’t miss a game, and scores at least 10 points in every one, he will set the new standard on March 30, 2018 when Cleveland plays New Orleans.
But 30 years ago, Abdul-Jabbar’s streak was seemingly untouchable. It came to an end in Milwaukee, where the 40-year-old began his NBA career before his trade to Los Angeles. He shot just 3-for-10 and scored only seven points in an 85-83 Lakers loss.
Interestingly, the last time Abdul-Jabbar didn’t score in double figures also occurred in Milwaukee. On Oct. 18, 1977 – the same night Reggie Jackson hit three home runs to clinch the World Series for the New York Yankees over the Los Angeles Dodgers - Abdul-Jabbar punched Milwaukee center Kent Benson and was ejected before he reached double figures.
“It would probably be the equivalent of some quarterback throwing two or three touchdowns every single game for maybe 40-50 games,” Riley said. “That would be six to seven years and that ain’t going to happen. I’d like to see that one go on forever until he retired. He was in double figures before I was coaching.”
At the time the streak ended, the next longest for double figures was Moses Malone’s 526 games, from Nov. 4, 1978 to March 4, 1985.
As was his way, Abdul-Jabbar didn’t pay much heed to the end of the run. “I wasn’t aware of it,” he said. “That’s life. It wasn’t going to last forever. I wish we had won the game. It would have made it a lot easier to deal with.”
Magic Johnson, who had assisted on countless Abdul-Jabbar baskets through the years, felt bad about the streak’s demise. “You’re just out there playing and you don’t know how many points anybody has,” said Johnson. “It’s a tough situation. You would think he would get double figures, but he didn’t. It was one of those games where he didn’t get into the flow. They double-teamed him a lot. He got some shots but they didn’t fall.”
Abdul-Jabbar would have 12 more single-digit scoring games in 1987-88, and he would play one more season for the Lakers before retiring at the end of 1989 with 38,387 points, 1,459 more than second-place Karl Malone, 4,744 more than No. 3 Kobe Bryant, and 6,095 more than No. 4 Jordan.
James, who will soon go over the 30,000-point plateau at the age of 33 in his 15th NBA season, is a serious threat to Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time scoring record.