Lebron James was asked to name who he thought the Mount Rushmore of the National Basketball Association was, and he said it was Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Oscar Robertson. These comments started a fire storm, made even worse by James claiming he will be on the Mount Rushmore one day. To be fair to James, one he was just answering a question, he is victim to a double standard. People like to compare him to Jordan, but they always get mad at him when he acts like Jordan and exudes confidence. Jordan would have definitely put himself up on that Mount Rushmore, so why it is an issue James says he will be up there.
The idea of a Mount Rushmore is interesting though. I figured it would be interesting to look at who is on the Mount Rushmore of all four of the Major Sports in the United States.
Lets first define what type of players should be on the Mount Rushmore. Should it be the most talented players? The actual Mount Rushmore isn’t the best four presidents by any means, in fact Thomas Jefferson was a pretty poor president. It should be the four people who changed the game the most, because that is what the actual Mount Rushmore was. Washington was the leader of the revolution, Jefferson wrote the Declaration, Lincoln freed the Slaves, and Roosevelt paved the way to ensure workers were protected. Four of the biggest changes in our nation’s history. So the following four people are the ones who did the most to advance the game. So here they are, in no particular order, your NBA Mount Rushmore.
Number 1- Julius Irving
Irving was the key figure in the transformation of the game into the above the rim style of play we know today. People dunked and played above the
rim before Irving, known as Dr. J, but not with the flash and excitement, he did. Considered one of the best dunkers of all time, he made it mainstream, and his dunking coined the phrase “slam dunk.” His flash and style added excitement to the game, and paved the way for players like Jordan, Bryant, and James. Irving was inducted to the Hall Of Fame, and was in Sports Illustrated’s Top 40 Most Important Athletes of All Time.
Besides transforming the game into a new style, he was also a key piece in merging the NBA with the American Basketball Association in 1976. He was probably the most talented and well known player in the ABA at the time, legitimizing it and helping move along the merger. Not only is he one of the best of all-time, but he changed the game more than almost anyone, giving him the first spot
Number 2- Michael Jordan
Does this one really need an explanation? Considered by many to be the best player of all time, Jordan made the game a global hit. Everyone with a TV knew his name. Kids in other countries wanted to buy Jordans or a Jordan jersey, or they were possibly making Jordan’s. other players have helped grow the global market for the NBA, like Kobe Bryant and Yao Ming, but Jordan was the first to do it. Not only that, but most current NBA fans grew up watching Mike, and most young basketball fans grew up wanting to be “Like Mike.”
Jordan also made the wing players much more prevalent. Before Jordan the game revolved around the Center position, he made it revolve around the wing players. His skill and the attention it got even led to the NBA making more rules to help scoring. They made it illegal to make contact on players in the box, allowing athletic players to drive in for high flying dunks and layups. Jordan was the NBA when he played, and his mark can still be seen with all of the games current superstars.
Number 3- George Mikan
This one is going back a little. Mikan was the original Superstar, the first player to dominate the game of basketball. Mikan played in the pre-shot clock era, in fact, he is the reason the shot clock exists. The shot clock has
been an integral part of making Basketball the game it is today. It forces the game to move quickly, and for teams to play offense. Before the shot clock. Teams would score, and then pass the ball around and not even attempt to score if they didn’t have to. Mikan was able to dominate the game despite this.
Other advances he inspired was the tracking or rebounds as a stat, the widening of the foul lane, and one of the most basic drills that every NBA Big man is taught to this day, the “Mikan Drill”. He may not be the most well-known player, but he changed the game in more ways than people realize, and deserves a spot on the Mount Rushmore of Basketball.
Number 4- Wilt Chamberlain
Chamberlain inspired more rule changes than almost any other player.
Every time basketball changed a rule, he would find a new loophole to use his size to score. It is because of him you can’t jump from the free throw line anymore. Chamberlain would dunk from the line. He is the reason you can’t inbound over the basket any more. His team used to inbound over the basket to him so he could just dunk it. He inspired the goaltending rule, because he could just stand in the paint and block almost everything. The NBA widened the paint because of him. He dominated the game so much the league struggled to keep up with rules to add parity to the game. With his size and abilities, he was able to set the records for both rebounds and points in a single game. He is arguably the best player ever, and his sheer dominance was unlike any had ever seen before.
Who is on your Mt. Rushmore?