Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Russell: LeBron Belongs on Mt. Shushmore

Bill Russell is a NBA MVP Champion. LeBron James is a NBA MVP Champion. Both don No. 6 on their respective teams. The similarities end there.

Bill Russell is a dapper young man, and at the age of 80, still schooling these youngsters on how to act.

During Sunday night’s NBA All-Star game, Craig Sager reported LeBron and Mr. Russell had a little heart-to-heart before the game in reference to LeBron’s controversial “Mt. Rushmore.”

“Thank you for leaving me off your Mt. Rushmore,” Russell said to LeBron, “I’m really 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 a NBA championship my first year in the league, a NBA championship my last year in the league, and nine in between. And that, Mr. James, is etched in stone.”

Now don’t get me wrong, LeBron James is already one of the best players in NBA history. The past few seasons he has been undoubtedly the best player in the NBA. Love him or hate him, cheer for the Miami Heat or against them. Even if your basketball knowledge is that of a sea cucumber, you’re very aware of LeBron James’ existence. King James is no stranger to telling people the relevance of his presence in the NBA. Even if he only has your ear for one second, he might even mention this in passing.

Bill Russell never had to.

Along with the previously mentioned championships, Mr. Russell was named to 12 All-Star teams, won 5 MVP awards, was the NBA rebounding champion 4 times, and was a Player Coach his last two seasons, both of which he won championships. He coached the team he played on, and won a championship, twice! He was a gold medalist in the 1956 Olympics. A true champion. The only thing he never did was proclaim himself as one of the 4 best players ever.

From LeBron’s antics with the hour-long “The Decision” aired on ESPN years ago, to all this un-provoked Mt. Rushmore talk, his arrogance will be the difference between his reputation being really good and GREAT. Great players don’t have to tell people how great they are, they just are. Legends don’t have to demand respect, it’s just given. If LeBron realized this long ago, maybe he could have won in Cleveland, the team was obviously talented; they were in the finals in 2007. Instead he had to jump ship, head to Miami, and surround himself with multiple All-Stars before he could finally win.

Stop talking LeBron. Everyone knows you’re good, and will admit it (except Kevin Durant), so shut up. Just play. Solidify your legacy by proving it on the court, not jockin for media coverage. Perhaps I feel the way I do because of Houston’s humble history. Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell never had to toot their own horn. Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon hardly spoke English, much less bragged on himself. Earl Campbell is as genuine as it gets, and he was a monster. And I like it that way.  I can honestly say I hope the Rockets never show interest in acquiring LeBron in the future. I don’t care how good he is, I’ll pass. Then again like most men, I can be bought. If he was on the same team as James Harden and Dwight Howard, I could see myself being persuaded to root for him (modesty is key).

It would be unfair to assume Bill Russell was trying to “show up” LeBron, he probably meant no disrespect at all. But I’m glad he said what he did. It couldn’t have come from a better, more credentialed person, than 11-time NBA Champion Bill Russell. Someone truly worthy of being on a basketball “Mt. Rushmore.”

 

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