In a recent interview with NBA TV analyst Steve Smith, LeBron James revealed his “Mount Rushmore”, a la, his greatest players of all-time list.
Included in this foursome were Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Oscar Robertson. James also went on to say that by the time his playing career is over, he expects to be on that same mythical landscape of basketball lore.
“I’m going to be one of the top four that’s ever played this game, for sure. 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.” (NBA on SI.com).
Lofty expectations but certainly attainable by the player widely regarded as the current best in the world. In fact, very fitting for someone that’s been dubbed “King”. I don’t have a problem with his list, especially since things like this are subjective.
What I do have a problem with is the continuous omission of perhaps the most unstoppable player in the history of basketball. The man I’m referring to had the most signature and distinct shot ever witnessed and is the leading scorer in the history of the NBA… Lew Alcindor, later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Though he didn’t invent the hook (many credit that to George Mikan and Cliff Hagan), he crafted and perfected it, so much so that his shot affectionately became known as the “Skyhook”. The shot proved to be a vital weapon, as the NCAA outlawed dunking in 1968 to make him a little less dominant. The irony is the shot made him even more dominant, giving him more space, as he scored over defenders with relative ease. It also made it easier for him on defense, as opponents had to shoot from short range, only to have their attempt rejected by the 7’2″ wall of intimidation. The rule was later changed in 1977, but by then Abdul-Jabbar had already left college with three National Player of the Year awards, three National titles, and his teams posted a record of 88-2 during his stay.
After declining an offer of $1 million to play for the Harlem Globetrotters in 1969, he was selected as the first overall pick in the NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks. His transition into the league was seamless, as he finished second in the league in scoring (28.8 ppg), third in rebounding (14.5 rbg) and captured the NBA Rookie of the Year award. He led the Bucks to a record of 56-26, 29 wins more than the team’s previous season.
Next season, the acquisition of Oscar Robertson pushed the Bucks to the NBA championship, in a season that saw Kareem win his first of two scoring titles and his first of a record six MVP awards, with the latter being a distinction he shares with Michael Jordan.
After a few more seasons in Milwaukee, he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1975, where he played until his retirement in 1989.
During his playing career, many onlookers described him as aloof, introverted, and unfriendly. He was known to not be cordial to the media, casting a notion that he would be difficult to deal with in a head coach or front office position, an opportunity that has yet to be granted.
However, one cannot deny his greatness on the court. Adidas has decided to follow suit in the recognition of his greatness, as they’ve decided to pay homage to him by unveiling a tribute shoe called “The Blueprint”. The shoe made its debut last night, as his UCLA Bruins sported them in their 92-74 win over Colorado. The shoes will also be sold online and at an Adidas store in New Orleans during All-Star Weekend.
The timing for this is perfect, as the world will see a collection of the best athletes in the world over the course of the next three days. Though this particular athlete no longer competes on a grand stage, his contribution to the game and service should never be forgotten. Much respect to you, Kareem.