LeBron James generally seems like a pretty mellow guy. He lets his game do the talking, and it’s been yapping plenty the past couple of years. Granted, James has shifted down a gear or two this regular season, but I pity anyone who doubts that he has another level that he’ll go to during the postseason.
And LeBron doesn’t have any doubts, either — not about this season, mind you, but about his historical legacy:
“I’m going to be one of the top four that’s ever played this game, for sure,” LeBron James said in an interview that will air on NBA TV on Monday. “And if they don’t want me to have one of those top four spots, they’d better find another spot on that mountain. Somebody’s gotta get bumped, but that’s not for me to decide. That’s for the architects.”
James, who has previously talked about being one of the greats of all time, was responding to a question during the interview when asked to name his personal Mount Rushmore, the four greatest players of all time.
James’ first three selections which he called the “easy three,” were Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. He deliberated before taking Oscar Robertson as his fourth choice.
There’s a striking similarity to the guys that James named. They’re all wings and guards — ball handlers, essentially — who dominated the game and their competition. All were multifaceted basketball talents, too, triple-double machines whenever they so chose to be. And they played for title-winning teams, too. Jordan won six, of course, and Robertson just the one in Milwaukee, but all four members of LeBron’s monument to basketball were champions.
As much as the question is about individuals, then, it’s also about rings. Because it’s always about rings, isn’t it? Not entirely, or Bill Russell would have been an easy choice. But the delineation between those with and without is clear. There are champions, and there are not-quites. And the greatest, the very, very best, count themselves among the former.
It’s a criterion that flashes forward to LeBron’s future, too. If he’s to cement his status on that basketball Mt. Rushmore, it’ll be at the expense of Robertson, or whomever comes after “and — man, this is tough” in any similar list. And he’ll do it by continuing to be part of teams that win titles. The path to glory is paved in championship gold. It’s why LeBron rests now, waiting for the playoffs.
And it might just be why he comes to whatever decision he makes after the season’s over.