Picking the four greatest players in NBA history is an impossible task.
Rightfully so – and as LeBron James himself stated – choosing four out of the many great NBA players in history is indeed “unfair”. Not even Plato, Aristotle nor Phil Jackson can justify an argument for the soundest four without leaving several others feeling “snubbed”.
So why bother?
Well, it does make for some great barbershop talk and heated sports debates and banter. And when it’s the current MVP and consensus best player on the planet chiming in, a snowball of comments and reaction is sure to follow.
In case you’ve been hiding under a rock lately, James perched Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson on his hypothetical “Mount Rushmore” of the top four NBA players of all time during his recent All-Star one-on-one interview with Steve Smith.
Surely, plenty have protested and contested James’ basketball fab four, but the biggest reaction perhaps has been from none other than the NBA’s greatest winner.
“Hey, thank you for leaving me off your Mount Rushmore,” was what Hall of Fame and Celtics legend Bill Russell told James about his list according to TNT’s Craig Sager.
“I’m glad you did. Basketball is a team game. It’s not for individual honors. I won back-to-back state championships in high school, back-to-back NCAA championships in college, I won an NBA championship my first year in the league, an NBA championship my last year, and nine in between. And that, Mr. James, is etched in stone,” continued Russell.
And who dare argue with the NBA’s Lord of the Rings? (Russell has more NBA championship rings than he has fingers!!!)
This piece, however, was not intended to grill James’ opinion. He was asked an impossibly tough question, which he bravely answered on the spot. Plus, it’s not as if any of those four names are slacks either.
Perhaps hailing from the Midwest influenced James a little bit, with all his picks aside from Jordan (no brainer) hailing from the Midwest. Johnson traces his roots in the area and was a high school phenom himself back in Michigan, while James won’t get much flack from the Hoosier state with Bird being a state hoops legend and Robertson an icon in Nap Town (slang for Indianapolis) where he made history when he led the Crispus Attucks to the state championship in 1955 — the first all-black high school to accomplish such feat.
Who knows? And frankly, who cares? It’s his list; get over it.
With that said, I do want to add on to this healthy conversation by sharing my own Mount Rushmore, and then some. I tried to spread the love by adding variables and classifications and created more lists, which you can also freely debate and contest. (Feel free to post your own on the comments section below)
My NBA Mount Rushmores
Greatest Ever Mount Rushmore: Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
I like Russell’s argument above, and Kareem owns all kinds of records and was the most dominant player during his career.
Post-Jordan era Mount Rushmore: Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson.
I admit to personal bias here with AI. But how can anyone ignore how he revolutionized the game and incorporated the street and hip-hop culture into the NBA like no other before him and after. His social relevance and impact adds to his achievements, and the things he did in his tiny frame still blows my mind to this day.
Iconic Mount Rushmore: Julius Erving, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson.
International Mount Rushmore: Arvydas Sabonis, Dirk Nowitzki, Manu Ginobili, Steve Nash.
I know some here will contend that players like Olajuwon and Duncan should be on here, but I’m sticking with those who represented their country in the Olympics and didn’t play for the USA.
Defensive Mount Rushmore: Dennis Rodman, Bill Russell, Gary Payton, Dikembe Mutombo.
Coaches Mount Rushmore: Phil Jackson, Red Auerbach, Pat Riley, Gregg Popovich.
Coach Spo can make a run at this if he continues his brilliant coaching career and wins a few more with LeBron and even one or two after.
23-years-old and below Mount Rushmore: Kyrie Irving, Paul George, Damian Lillard, Anthony Davis.
And for those who are curious, Kobe Bryant’s Mount Rushmore goes: “I would say Magic, Bird, Michael and Russell.”
Dennis is on Twitter @dRealSource.