The NBA Mount Rushmore

Earlier this season LeBron James was asked about his NBA Mount Rushmore and if he felt he belonged atop the NBA’s ultimate pinnacle – he was hopeful that one day he would be viewed by many in this context and then he threw out his personal Rushmore and it was very, very flawed. 

Why was it flawed – because it did not accurately reflect the idea of a Mount Rushmore.  What exactly is this?  Mount Rushmore did not just have the four greatest Presidents on it; rather it had the four most impactful on the country. 

Who then, are the four most impactful players in the history of the NBA (remember, not just as players but also on the league as a whole)? 

Michael Jordan

Bill Russell

Larry Bird / Magic Johnson


LeBron James

What?  How can (insert old timer name here) not be on the Mount Rushmore? 

The league has gone through multiple eras and transitions, and each of these should be reflected on Mount Rushmore.  Just because someone is still active does not diminish their impact on the development and expansion of the NBA.  LeBron may not seem like a great choice but hear out the argument for each before passing judgement.

Michael Jordan – the argument for the NBA’s greatest player is pretty straightforward, he is the NBA’s greatest player and without question expanded the league to new heights never before thought possible.  Jordan became known as more than simply a basketball player and he moved the game into the worldwide phenomenon it is.  There is little doubt of the impact he has had, and now as an owner / ridiculous brand billionaire he is poised to continue playing a part in the future of the league.

Bill Russell – was literally responsible, along with Wilt / West / Baylor, for bringing the NBA out of the dark ages and making the game modern.  As an 11 time champion, he also helped break down the racial barriers across the country and successfully integrate the game.  He has continued to serve as the NBA’s ideal champion and one of the classiest men in professional sports. 

Magic / Bird – we are going with a half Magic face and a half Bird face because these two men saved the league when it was in its darkest time.  The rivalry between the two men allowed the league to move on from cocaine troubles, tape delay and a distinct lack of exposure.  They saved the game and began the turn towards becoming one of the biggest sports in the world.  The 80’s is remembered as Bird and Magic’s time and rightly so for all they did to expand the league.

LeBron James – when you think of the post Jordan league who is the first player you think of?  Kobe?  Shaq?  Duncan?  None of those players (great all) have had the same impact of LeBron James.  He has brought the league into modern, twitter-ful times.  The Decision – what other player would have had that kind of spotlight or ability to make a choice that fully altered the landscape of the league?  Everything he does is scrutinized over and above what anyone else in the history of the league has had to withstand.  Time and again he has stepped up (his averages in elimination games / game 7’s are the highest in NBA history) and he has revolutionized the NBA.  From style to worldwide branding, LeBron has changed the game forever.  He deserves a spot on the Mount Rushmore of the NBA…and his career is maybe half over.  What new heights – dizzying heights some may speculate – can he lift the league to?  Already teams are being sold for $2 billion dollars on the strength of TV contracts and players potential.  LeBron is the face of the revolution, like it or not.

Toughest omissions – Kareem (just not as impactful as Bird / Magic), Kobe (nowhere near as impactful as LeBron), Wilt (LeBron before LeBron), Shaq (very popular and well know culturally), Duncan (never cared to be known outside San Antonio), West (literally the logo and built the Lakers of the 2000’s)

There you have the real NBA Mount Rushmore – of guys who shaped the past, present and future of the game as it moved forward into a new era of prosperity.


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