LeBron James started a BIG controversy that has lingered on about the greatest NBA players. Who should be on Mount Rushmore? Well, being a sports guy dating back to the dark ages and especially pro basketball, I have to add my 2 cents worth.
First I say anything dealing with basketball must be five not four.
LeBron’s four were Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. I’m surprised he had Oscar in that most young people when they select the greatest never deal with history, only the players they’ve seen. He also stated that some place would have to be made for him in the future, possibly as the fifth guy.
Since these statements just about every sports show and newspaper columnist has talked about it and selected their greatest. Well, here is mine.
When you talk about greatest NBA players you must start with Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlin.
Any selections that don’t include these two on it are suspect, a fraud. I know every modern day fan will say Michael Jordan is the greatest to ever play the game; I say that the greatest starts with these two then Michael along with Magic Johnson, and Oscar.
Why Russell and Chamberlain? Russell in an era when there were few to no Blacks in major college or professional sports, especially basketball led San Francisco University to two consecutive NCAA championships, going undefeated both seasons. Then he entered the NBA, and led a good team that had never won an NBA championship in its history. They had never appeared in a championship game, he led them to 11 championships in 13 years. And that would have been 12 in 13 season if he had not gotten hurt in the playoffs during his second season. He was the greatest defensive player in the history of the game and averaged 22 rebounds per game for his career, when most players would be glad to get 22 in one game.
Wilt was the greatest offensive player the game has ever known, and that includes Jordan. I would also go as far as to say he was probably the second greatest defensive player the game has known. He scored 100 points in one game, average 50 points and 22 rebounds for an entire season. He even led the league in assists one season, which has never been done by a center.
And oh, by the way he averaged 22 rebounds for his entire career, putting him and Russell way, way, way out front in that category.
The only reason I put him behind Russell is he only had two championships, but that was mostly because he played during the Russell era. Just ask Jerry West and Elgin Baylor about that frustration. They lost to Russell led teams year in and year out.
So after Russell and Chamberlain we can talk about other players. Jordan comes out a shade ahead of Magic, Baylor and Robertson. Why? Six championships compared to Baylor, none; and Robertson two.
You say what about Magic?
I rate Michael and Magic even. Magic has five titles, but he took his team to nine championship series, winning five while losing four. There was five years Michael never made the big dance and not until Scotty Pippen developed was he able to get past the Boston Celtics, and Detroit Pistons.
I think Magic was the most exciting player to watch other than Julius Erving during his prime. But Michael was a close third. What about Dr. J?
Who would that fifth player be? Well not LeBron, he has five to 10 more years left. I think he will be among the five best if he continues to play at the level he’s playing for the next five years.
So who would my fifth player be? That’s a tough question. Oscar, Elgin, Jerry West, Larry Bird, George Mikans, Dr. J, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar all are worthy. Baylor consistently averaged over 30 points and 12 rebounds while standing at only 6-5. Oscar averaged over 30 points, over 10 rebounds, and 10 assists per game, no one has ever done that, including Michael. Bird led a great Celtic team to three championships. And West along with Bird, and Rick Barry is the greatest pure shooters in history. But who would be that fifth player?
I will have to go with Kareem barely over Oscar. Kareem won three consecutive NCAA championships losing only two games in three years, then six NBA championships, while becoming the NBA all time scoring leader.
So Mr. James, you have your work cut out for you if you have any plans of being carved on Mt. Rushmore after the end of your career.
For those of you who have been living on another planet, Mt. Rushmore has four U. S. Presidents carved in it.
(Ulish Carter is the managing editor of the New Pittsburgh Courier.)