By: Tim Van Duyne
The NBA’s MVP race is heating up as LeBron James and Kevin Durant continue to light up the scoreboard. In the midst of their best season, the MVP candidates took some time during the All-Star break to let us know who is on their NBA “Mount Rushmore.”
Narrowing down the NBA legends to just four heads on a mountain is no easy task. You have to factor in statistics, titles, MVPs, how a player rates among the best at his position and how a player’s game might translate from era to era.
With all this in mind, LeBron’s Mount Rushmore included Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Oscar Roberston. While KD decided to go with MJ, Magic, Larry and Kareem Abul-Jabbar.
At first glance there’s not much you can argue with, but if you take all factors into consideration you can cross a couple off the mountain.
Obviously Michael Jordan is going to be on everyone’s Mount Rushmore. He is the greatest player to ever step on an NBA court and by far the most decorated. Now trying to fill in the other three spots is one of the harder things to breakdown and can spark plenty of debate.
I put Magic in the top-10 of all-time, but he’s not on my Mount Rushmore. Magic has five rings, three regular season MVPs and three Finals MVPs, so he checks out in the MVP and titles category. My argument for not putting him in my top four, stems from the fact that he was surrounded by NBA legends during the Showtime Lakers title run. He also never put up huge numbers. He averaged a career 19.6 ppg, 11.2 apg and 7.2 rpg. Very impressive numbers for a 6’8″ point guard, but not mind boggling by any means.
Larry “Legend” is a legend but is not in my top-10. Once again, Bird has the titles and the MVPs, but when you compare him to today’s athletes he is two steps behind. He was never known for his athleticism. Despite this he still was able to become one of the greatest of all-time, because of his knowledge of the game and his ability to make others better. If he were to play in today’s NBA he would still be an all-star, but he still wouldn’t be a top-5 player.
I agree with LeBron’s choice to add Oscar Robertson to Mount Rushmore. “The Big O” nearly averaged a career triple-double. He played in the ’60s and ’70s, which were filled with less talented players on average, but he put up huge numbers. Oscar is still the only player to average a triple-double for a season. He posted an NBA record 181 triple-doubles over his career, which also earned him the nickname “Mr. Triple Double.” He transcended the point guard/shooting guard position by being one of the first big guards at 6’5″ 220 lbs. This led to other big guys like Magic Johnson being able to play point guard. So yes, “The Big O” deserves to be on the NBA Mount Rushmore.
My list also includes two of the best Lakers of all-time, Kobe and Shaq. This duo will go down as one of the greatest of all-time.
Shaq was arguably the most dominant player in league history. The way he was able to man handle his opponents was amazing to watch. He led the Lakers to three straight titles in the early 2000’s. Shaq also won a championship alongside Dwyane Wade with the Miami Heat and brought the Orlando Magic to their first Finals appearance. Shaq fits every criteria listed above. The man of many nicknames has the rings, MVPs, stats, and he would be dominant in any era. Shaq may go down as the greatest big man in NBA history.
And finally, rounding out my NBA Mount Rushmore is Kobe Bryant. Kobe emulated his entire game after MJ. If you don’t believe me, check out this montage of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant being juxtaposed with their nearly identical plays.
Kobe has won five titles, he’s racked up two Finals MVPs and one league MVP. He dropped the second most points in an NBA game with his 81 points against the Toronto Raptors. He keeps moving up on the NBA scoring list. Kobe may not be on everyone’s Mount Rushmore for reasons that I understand. But he is the closest thing to Michael Jordan, and I don’t think we will see another player like Mike or Kobe.
So LeBron gave his Mount Rushmore without mentioning himself. He did say he will be on that list when it’s all said and done, which is a no brainer. LBJ just needs to get a few more rings and they’ll start chiseling in his likeness on the mountain.