DALLAS — Shawn Marion says, “Not right now.”
That was the Dallas Mavericks swingman’s immediate response Tuesday moring when asked if he thinks Miami Heat superstar LeBron James belongs on the Mount Rushmore of NBA greats.
“You know, I think he’s a very talented and he isn’t done playing,” Marion said of James following the Mavericks’ shoot around in American Airlines Center as Dallas prepares to face Miami here at 7 p.m. CST. “So right now, no. There’s alot of guys who have done alot more than he has done and they’re definitely going to be up there.”
Last week, James orchestrated an ongoing debate among media pundits when he said during an NBA TV interview, “I’m going to be one of the top four that’s ever played this game, for sure.” James who, in recent weeks, has spoked openingly about being one of the greatest players of all time, was responding to a question during the interview when asked to reveal his personal Mount Rushmore, or the four greatest players of all time.
Without hesitation, the two-time reigning NBA Most Valuable Player called out Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson, referring to the Hall of Famers as his “easy three.” However, James paused briefly before deciding on Oscar Robertson as his fourth and decisive choice.
Such selections seemingly raised the eye brows of NBA legend Bill Russell who, according to TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager, read a quote from the 80-year-old Hall of Famer and 11-time NBA champion, who personally addressed James about his Mount Rushmore choices.
“Hey, thank you for leaving me off your Mount Rushmore,” Russell said to James before Sunday’s All-Star Game in New Orleans. 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 in my last year, and nine in between. That, Mr. James, is etched in stone.”
A seemingly fatigue James, who sat on the sideline with ice packs draped over both knees Tuesday but told MemphiSport, “I don’t know when was the last time I’ve actually got some rest,” wasn’t available to speak with reporters following the hour-long shootaround session. However, Heat All-Star center Chris Bosh wasted little time defending his teammate of three-plus seasons.
“Who else has four MVPs?” said Bosh, when asked to assess Marion’s comments. “You know, I can’t think of many guys. And if somebody else has, let me know. He’s one of the best players to ever play the game.”
While Miami coach Erik Spoelstra declined to take jabs at Marion’s dauntless comments regarding James’ Mount Rushmore discussion, he elected to take a somewhat unique approach in defense of the NBA’s most talked about player.
“It’s impossible to put faces from different generations,” Spoelstra said. “And I guess that’s what makes those arguments compelling. Somehow, we need to come up with some kind of three of youth, some kind of fountain of youth where guys can go back in their primes and play each other. And that would be the most interesting thing to see.”
If nothing else, the 29-year-old James undountedly is making a strong case that he could very well be deemed one of the greatest players to ever grace an NBA court. Not only is James — who is still in the prime of an NBA career that spans 11 seasons — years removed from having silence an array of critics in the aftermath of “The Decision” fiasco that erupted after he bolted Cleveland four years ago, but he’s continuing to construct what is shaping up to be an astouding resume now that he has consecutive world titles to complement multiple league MVP trophies.
So why not carve out James’ face amongest the NBA’s finest on the celebrated structure that is Mount Rushmore?
“At the end of his career, who know?” Marion said. “I’m not saying that’s not going to happen. But right now? No. You’ve got some heckuva players who played in this league. Alot of them got five or championships. That’ll be tough. Think about what legends that are already up there. Big Oscar (Robertson) will definitely be up there. Bill Russell. Wilt Chamberlain. You can mix and shuffle those around with a couple of more legends. It’s tough. We’ve got some great players that have played this game. So that’s a hard one to shuffle around.”
Which, according to Spoelstra, makes for a compelling argument.