Kareem Abdul-Jabbar just carved himself a place on the Mount Rushmore of Mount Rushmore critics.
James did not name Abdul-Jabbar, the league's all-time leading scorer, to his list. That wasn't Abdul-Jabbar's problem with the group, though.
Speaking at a press conference before Monday's Utah Jazz-Milwaukee Bucks game, the 19-time All-Star said James should have consulted the history books before taking on such a monumental task, via Aaron Falk of The Salt Lake Tribune:
I don’t know what LeBron was thinking. He didn’t even see Bill Russell play. He has no idea what Bill Russell did. Eleven championships in 13 years? Eight in a row? LeBron isn’t going to get anywhere near that. I don’t get it. And here he didn’t want Bill Russell on his Rushmore. I think today’s players have a very limited perspective on the game.
Obviously, James didn't choose Russell for his four-headed shrine. Instead, he went with Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson, leaving an open door for himself saying, "I'm going to be one of the top four that's ever played this game."
James admitted at the time the task wasn't easy. In fact, it even deviated from the list of the four greatest players in league history he shared with Fox Sports' Bill Reiter before the season: Jordan, Bird, Johnson and Julius Erving.
It's important to remember that James isn't writing a research paper on the best players to ever step foot on an NBA floor. He's being put on the spot by reporters itching for an answer and giving it as much thought as the interviews have allowed—less than a minute.
Still, because the words LeBron and legacy are involved, they've always stirred up a great debate. Abdul-Jabbar isn't even the first person to speak on Russell's omission. The 11-time champion shared his own thoughts on the list with TNT's Craig Sager at the NBA All-Star Game, via Tom Westerholm of CelticsHub.com:
Hey, thank you for leaving me off your Mount Rushmore. 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.
The problem is, as is always the case with the great sports debates, that this is a subjective question where different people feel like they have objective answers. You could give and defend a wide range of different NBA Mount Rushmore heads:
This debate won't get any clearer with time.
James, already a two-time champion and four-time MVP winner, is making a strong case for his inclusion down the line. Kevin Durant is 25 years old and well on his way to his fourth scoring title.
Do either, or both, belong on that magical mountain? Not yet, but what about five years down the line? Or 10 years from now?
Don't forget, the league always has a "next great thing" waiting in the wings. It won't be that long before we're discussing that we're looking to clear more space for that unknown superstar.
Let's just hope whoever winds up building this Mount Rushmore leaves themselves enough flexibility to make modifications to the stone faces.