This is the plight of the pro athlete. When they keep to themselves and offer guarded, politically correct answers, they’re usually termed dull and boring. When they actually show a little interest in a question, or return with an intriguing answer, and it goes against conventional thinking? Then we ask them to keep quiet. As many on Twitter have done on this week, after a clip from LeBron James’ upcoming televised interview was leaked online.
Unlike the last time this happened, when James admitted to having initial early-season misgivings about joining the Miami Heat in 2010, this portion of the interview has LeBron in full-on “I know who I am”-mode. In talking with NBA TV’s Steve Smith, James contends that, at some point, he should be on the NBA’s hypothetical own Mount Rushmore, finishing his career amongst the top four players of all time.
After Smith asked who James’ personal Mount Rushmore would include (Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and after some consideration, Oscar Robertson), Smith then asked if James thought he’d end up there someday. After replying “yes,” James explained away:
“Because I’m going to be one of the top four to ever play this game, for sure. And if they don’t want me to have one of those top four spots they better find another spot on that.”
Watch a clip of the full interview:
Well, yeah. What is LeBron supposed to say? And what would you say to those who would argue that James shouldn’t be carved into this mountain that actually doesn’t exist? If LeBron ends his career as anything short of a top two all-time NBA player, he (or whatever massive stroke of bad luck that would have befallen him) will have disappointed us.
As outsiders, we’re supposed to want James – and any other player, really – to strive to be an all-time great. We want that sort of abject confidence, and for a player to play to the best of his ability in order to let history judge him after having performed in top gear for the duration of a career. The sticking point, as Twitter and website comments have proven, some among us apparently don’t want these players to actually admit that, yeah, they want to be really, really good.
Or, as LeBron James’ ceiling suggests, legendarily good.
"To be honest, I feel I've been snubbed two years in a row, and I’m serious. And that's one selfish thing about me. . . . I feel like I should have won it."
… and what some cynics are calling a purposeful release of James’ fantastic go-to dunks in order to prove his Dunk Contest mettle without actually taking part in the contest, and you have a bit of a backlash. Toss in what have sometimes been sluggish efforts from James (as in Miami’s loss to Utah on Saturday, a game that saw James need 13 shots to score 13 points, heaving six three-pointers while nailing one, and turning the ball over five times) at times as he preps himself to do his best work in May and June, and you have a backlash.
With the final cherry on that topping coming in the form of Kevin Durant’s MVP-worthy year thus far. As a result, you come across tweets like these:
Will somebody tell LBJ to STOP begging for attention. It's KD's year in the NBA, deal with it! LBJ, insecurity is not a good look for you.
— Ike Reese (@Ike58Reese) February 12, 2014
Perhaps the “leaked” dunks were a little insecure, as James readies to watch his past and future combatant Paul George line up for the Dunk Contest on Saturday. Maybe the Defensive Player of the Year quotes were a bit off – I can understand James winning over Tyson Chandler in 2012, but there wasn’t a better defender in the league than Marc Gasol last year, and James’ inconsistent 2013-14 defensive turn is light years behind Roy Hibbert's this season – but he’s not speaking out of turn when he says he wants to knock Oscar Robertson off the NBA’s purported Mount Rushmore.
He’s not speaking out of turn if he says he wants to topple Larry, Magic and MJ, too. Not only should LeBron James want that, he’s good enough to pull it off.
(Even if, guys, there’s no real NBA Mount Rushmore. Mount Rushmore was still called “Mount Rushmore” even before the faces of TR, Abe Lincoln, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were carved into it.)
All NBA players should want to be in the top four. And as long as no destructive or hurtful language is coming out of their mouths, we should want all NBA players to freely say whatever they want to say about a subject.
Even if the subject du jour is “Does Your Face Belong On a Made Up Mountain?”
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