Mount Rushmore, South Dakota. Only America’s most distinguished presidents have reached this pinnacle of leadership. This high honor represents a level of achievement and success only experienced by few. Each of the four presidents whose visages are forever memorialized on this granite surface did the most with the time that they were given. Just as these presidents surpassed their peers and embodied success so have four players, whose legacies have forever enshrined them in basketball greatness.
Let’s get started…
Oscar Robertson: Only player to ever average a triple-double for an entire season.
Jerry West: Only player to ever win the Finals MVP award despite losing, not to mention the game's logo was crafted after him.
Wilt Chamberlain: Arguably the game’s most dominant player ever. Only player to ever average over 50 points a game for an entire season. Also, "Wilt the Stilt" is the only player to record 100 points in a single game.
Larry Bird: He was the face of the Celtics franchise during the 80s.
Earvin “Magic” Johnson averaged over 19 points, 11 assists and 7 rebounds as the face of the Laker organization during his 13-year NBA career. His averages of 85 percent from the charity stripe and 52 percent from the field are among the best all time for NBA guards.
Johnson was featured in 12 All-Star games and on nine All-NBA first teams. He was able to capture three League MVPs, three Finals MVPs, one Olympic Gold Medal (as a part of the ’92 Dream Team) and five championships.
His statue outside Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles is a monument for his leadership and success during his years on the Showtime Lakers. Magic’s numerous accolades give him the nod as one of the four players on basketball’s Mount Rushmore.
Kareem’s career was defined by longevity. The NBA’s all-time leading scorer played in an incredible 20 NBA seasons. He averaged over 24 points, 11 rebounds and 2.5 blocks a game. His 19 All-Star game selections and six League MVP's are the most ever by an NBA player. He also managed to be nominated to 10 All-NBA first Teams and five NBA All-Defensive first Teams. To top it off, he won two Finals MVPs and six NBA Championships.
He is the most decorated player in NBA history in terms of the amount of records he currently holds and awards won. His trademark combination of the sky-hook and goggles earn this former Milwaukee Buck and Los Angeles Laker a spot on the Mount Rushmore of basketball.
Not much need be said about this man. Michael Jeffrey Jordan posted 30 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals a game during his 15-year career. He managed to raise his career scoring, rebounding and passing averages from the regular season to the postseason. His achievements are remarkable and unrivaled by any player of his era. MJ had 14 All-Star game selections, 10 All-NBA first Teams, 9 NBA All-Defensive first Team nominations and a Defensive Player of the Year Award.
As for his hardware, the man had five League MVPs, six Finals MVP's, two Olympic Gold Medals and six NBA Championships. Jordan’s contributions to the game are unparalleled. He single-handedly revolutionized the game. His name is still the most recognizable in all of basketball, and he will forever be the most polarizing figure the game has had the pleasure of witnessing. It would be a disgrace to not include his face on the Mount Rushmore of basketball.
I'm sure plenty of you have already begun writing your complaints about Jordan even being mentioned in the same sentence as the number "two," but hear me out before you unleash a barrage of criticisms. Russell averaged over 15pts, 22rebs, and 4assts a game. These numbers are misleading though, as a vital statistical category which contributed heavily to Russell’s legacy was not even kept track of during his era: blocks. Referees and reports though, estimated that Russell averaged 6bpg—on the low end. But, for the purpose of this article, I will agree to stick with this conservative statistic. Call it speculation if you want, but when so many individuals witnessed Russell throughout the entirety of his career and came to a near consensus, I’m willing to bet on it. Aside from in-game statistics, the man had as many accolades as he could during his time period (I’ll address the specifics of that statement below). 12 All-Star games, 11 1st and 2nd Team All-NBA selections, 5 MVP’s, and a record 11 NBA Championships. There are a few caveats that I should mention before you begin to analyze these accomplishments:
1. His eight 2nd All-NBA selections were only due to the fact that he played in the same era as arguably the most dominant center of all-time. For God’s sake 3 of the 5 times he won MVP he was on the 2nd All-NBA Team! Imagine if Derrick Rose, LeBron James, or Kobe Bryant was ever named the MVP of the league and then proceeded to be placed on the 2nd All-NBA team—the league would have more dumbfounded fans and complaint mail then they’d know what to do with!
2. Bill Russell never won a Finals MVP Trophy, but not because his on-court performances were not adequate enough for the trophy, but because it did not exist. As a matter of fact, when the trophy did come into existence it received the name the “Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award.” Russell’s second home was the Finals—his name was practically synonymous with the series—so it was only appropriate to give the award his name.
3. Lastly, I'm guessing many of you are wondering why he never won an NBA Defensive Player of the year award, or multiple All-NBA Defensive 1st Team selections for that matter. Again the absence of the accolade in Russell’s trophy case has less to do with Russell’s performance on the court and more to do with the non-existent nature of the award. The first year the All-NBA Defensive 1st Team award was presented (Russell’s last season) he received a nomination.
The man is second all-time in MVP's and first all-time in championships won as a player (not to mention that he won 2 of those championships as a player/coach), which is enough to dub him as the premiere face on basketball’s Mount Rushmore.
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