James insists he will be in top four of greatest players in basketball.
With his in-depth NBA TV interview set to be aired on Monday night, we discuss why LeBron James isn’t near the league’s Mount Rushmore yet.
In a clip released earlier this week ahead of the full interview being broadcast on Monday, the 29-year-old revealed his belief that by the time he ends his NBA career, he will be considered amongst the top four players to have ever played the game.
While it is difficult to assess that statement as it is impossible to presume what level of success James will achieve in the future, fanatix NBA experts Sumeet Paul and Scott Hazlewood believe that he isn’t there yet.
Scott Hazlewood: As much as I love watching LeBron James when he gets into his own ‘beast mode’ and I can appreciate what he has done in his career, especially in the last two or three seasons, I just can’t have him on my NBA Mount Rushmore – yet.
This is a great hypothetical that is prevalent in all sports, trying to compare the best of different eras. But one thing you can’t argue with is championships, MVP titles, scoring titles and other awards. LeBron has got the monkey off his back with two rings now, and a third this season will help his chances of being on Rushmore by the end of his career. But for me there are too many others more worthy of such a ‘honour’ at this stage.
Sumeet Paul: I agree. At this stage of his career, I wouldn’t, and very few others, would have him in that top four. Whether that changes before he calls time on his career, no one can tell as it will depend on the level of success he has and whether or not he can add to those two championships.
I also think people will still struggle putting him up there on a personal level, as he has through his career built up this negative reputation, which again he may shake off in the upcoming years.
Nevertheless, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Bill Russell make my NBA Mount Rushmore and personally James will find it difficult to displace that quartet. Each player combined changing and influencing the game with both individual and collective success, and that is what James must do on a consistent level for a few more years. Who makes your leading four?
SH: I think James has passed the “Bad LeBron” phase of his career to an extent. After ‘the decision’ he had to win in Miami which he has been able to do so really most people can’t hate on him for being a choker in big games, or that he hasn’t won a ring yet.
Really the biggest fault most people can find with him these days is that he’s selfish and won’t go in the Dunk Contest. For me it’s Jordan, Johnson, Russell and Wilt Chamberlain. Really to make it onto this kind of level, you need to look at players who changed the way the game was played or forced others to change in order to try and slow them down. And while James has done that to an extent in that he can play all five positions on the court well, he’s not quite there yet.
SP: There’s no doubting that given James’ athleticism and personal attributes, he could play a significant role in the NBA for the next 10 years perhaps. While that time-frame will naturally give him the opportunity to surpass some individual records, it remains to be seen what he decides in free agency this summer as that could determine his level of success over the next four or five years.
Personally, I enjoy seeing all the top players in the league playing at their best and competing at a high level, and it’s almost a privilege to be able to watch a player of my generation grow into one of the greatest of all time. However, I don’t particularly think he’s doing himself any favours by revealing his confidence that he will be one of the top four.
I don’t have an issue with players who believe that they are the best at their respective sport, as you have to have that belief in order to become that player. However, I think he would have been well-advised to keep that to himself and continue on his current path of letting his basketball do the talking.
SH: He could probably take a leaf out of Kobe Bryant’s book. Bryant would not be out of place in this discussion as to who of the current generation of stars will be seen as an immortal of the game when it’s all said and done, but he named others when asked about Mount Rushmore four.
If LeBron is to make the leap, what do you think he has to achieve by the end of his career to measure up to Jordan, Magic, Russell and company, do you think he can even make it?
SP: Difficult to put a definitive mark on it, I would prefer to see him stay in Miami and continue to build a legacy. I think the only way I will change my mind on him is if Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh fade, leaving James to lead another championship winning team. Longevity and an ability to make people better around him to start a new cycle, hallmarks of an all-time great with the tangible success of rings to cement it. When all is said and done and he hangs up the headband, can he change your opinion?
SH: I already think he is a great player, easily top 10 to have ever played the game. But you make a good point about great players making average players better around them. Say Miami win this year, James stays in South Beach but Wade’s knees give out all together and Bosh moves on for one last max deal before retirement. If James can win one or two titles with that Miami team then he will join the all time great. Some might say he is doing much of the heavy lifting this year, which is true to an extent. But like Tiger Woods in golf, really the only thing left for James to chase is the legacy of others whilst building a case for himself to be considered the best ever.