James now has 32,311 career points after netting a game-high 31 points in the 115-99 loss Wednesday at Staples Center in Los Angeles. He passed Jordan's mark of 32,292 with 5:38 remaining in the first half.
The four-time NBA MVP caught a short pass from Rajon Rondo during the sequence. He jumped into the paint and took one dribble before gliding toward the rim. He tossed a shot off of the backboard and through the net while getting fouled by Torrey Craig. James made the resulting free throw and finished the first half with 17 points.
"This ranks right up there at the top ... for a kid from Akron, Ohio that needed inspiration and needed some type of positive influence, M.J. was that guy for me," James told reporters.
"I watched him from afar. I wanted to be like M.J. I wanted to shoot fade aways like M.J. I wanted to stick my tongue out on dunks like M.J. I wanted to wear my sneakers like M.J. I wanted kids to look up to me at some point like M.J. It's crazy to be honest."
James, 34, is in his 16th season. He needs 1,333 points to pass Lakers icon Kobe Bryant for No. 3 on the all-time scoring list. James trails Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA's all-time leading scorer, by 6,076 points.
He averaged 2,069 points per season entering his 2018-2019 campaign. James ranks No. 10 all-time in assists and No. 62 all-time in rebounds.
"To me the most incredible part about that is what an unselfish player he is," Lakers coach Luke Walton said. "For someone who is always looking to pass first, to score that many points in his career just speaks to the greatness to his game. It was pretty special to be a part of it."
The Lakers host the Boston Celtics at 8:30 p.m. Saturday in Los Angeles.