Whenever you see any photo of LeBron James’ shot that broke the NBA’s all-time scoring record, you’ll probably see former IU center Thomas Bryant in the frame.
And there are a lot of photos of that moment.
The sixth-year pro was out the left wing as James drove from the right elbow to the left.
Whatever the moment, Bryant knew instinctively what to do as James looked his direction on the set.
“You know what was crazy? We went through that same play in practice, and whenever LeBron sees me on that wing he tells me to cut, and if you have a smaller defender, post your ass up in the paint, get a big target, get easy points,” Bryant said in an interview on the Gil’s Arena podcast.
So that’s exactly what Bryant did. But this time was a little different.
Bryant said he was trying to remain aware during the game of how many points James needed to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and reach 38,388 points. But as the game wore on he wasn’t quite sure where things stood.
“We were still trying to play to win the game, and play the right way,” Bryant said.
With under 20 seconds remaining in the third quarter, there was a buzz in the building as the Lakers got the ball to James on the elbow and everyone cleared out. James was one point behind Abdul-Jabbar.
Bryant did as James had instructed. He cut to the paint, sealed off his man at the rim, and earnestly called for the ball. James is fourth all-time in assists too — so it was reasonable to believe the ball was coming his way for what looked like a relatively easy two against an undersized Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
“All I’m doing is just everything that they’re telling me to do,” Bryant said.
But with the world watching, James launched a step-back jumper from the left elbow that put him on top of the charts.
Along with the camera men and women on the baseline, virtually every fan in the crowd had their cell phone out to snap a picture of the moment.
But when those same fans erupted in cheers, Bryant realized his role in history.
“I didn’t even actually recognize until it happened,” he said.
And when the dust settled on the moment, in all those photos everyone saw Bryant expecting a pass from James. And people had fun with it.
“I was like oh shoot they got me on a meme now,” Bryant said.
Bryant is on a meme, but he also got a ring.
In an unrelated move the very next day, Bryant was traded to the Denver Nuggets.
Denver swept the Lakers in the NBA Playoffs on their way to the title.
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) February 8, 2023
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