Whose faces belong on NBA's Mount Rushmore?

April 24, 2011

Don't forget Stern

Brian Schmitz

Orlando Sentinel

I'd carve the faces of Bill Russell, Michael Jordan, Earl Lloyd and David Stern into the mountain.

No one is associated more with winning than Russell, legendary on the defensive end. He was largely responsible for bringing 11 titles in 13 seasons to the Celtics.

Jordan was the greatest player in NBA history, and, arguably, the greatest athlete to grace any sport. He remains an iconic figure.

You might be raising your eyebrows about Lloyd, but he deserves his face on the rock as a trailblazer. He broke the color barrier, becoming the first African-American to appear in a game, in 1950.

Stern didn't hit a single shot, but his influence turned the league into a global attraction. He helped change the NBA's image from its drug-plagued days of the '70s, marketing superstars and capitalizing on TV dollars.

bschmitz@tribune.com

Magic, Bird go together

Shandel Richardson

Sun-Sentinel

The easiest choice here is Michael Jordan, who is the greatest player in NBA history. No individual dominated the game more. The fact Jordan remains one of the world's most popular athletes shows he belongs.

From there, it gets a little tricky. Do you take Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the greatest scorer in the game? Or do you take Bill Russell, the greatest winner in the game? Russell gets the nod over Abdul-Jabbar because winning goes a long way in determining greatness. Eleven championships in 13 seasons says enough.

The two remaining spots have to go to Magic Johnson and Larry Bird because they will be forever linked to one another. They came along during a time when the NBA wasn't a marquee sport and made it marketable.

srichardson@tribune.com

Big winners get the nod

K.C. Johnson

Chicago Tribune

The NBA needs a bigger mountain.

With only four faces on its Mount Rushmore, massive, major apologies are needed for Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson. But the foundation for this structure is individual brilliance aiding team dominance.

Thus, Bill Russell and his 11 titles, Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with their six each and Magic Johnson with his five are etched in stone.

Russell defined leadership with his defensive dominance. Jabbar rained sky hook after sky hook to victory after victory. Jordan willed teams to the top with scoring wizardry and unparalleled competitive drive. And Johnson revolutionized his position with size, grace and showmanship.

Winning multiple titles — and, yes, Chamberlain and his 100-point game won two of them — takes a special breed. These four giants tower above all.

kcjohnson@tribune.com

Auerbach leads Fab 5

Barry Stavro

Los Angeles Times

Mount Rushmore has four presidents, but we're talking hoops, so there are five names on my list.

Red Auerbach and Bill Russell: Auerbach spent five decades building and rebuilding championship teams, from the league's infancy to the David Stern era. Russell turned defense into an art form and altered the game and won so many titles that you'd have to combine Michael Jordan's and Kobe Bryant's rings to match his collection.

Magic Johnson and Larry Bird: Thirty years ago the league was close to failing when their magnetic play, on opposite ends of the country, drew fans back to the game and saved the NBA.

Jordan: As Russell redefined the game, so MJ did by adding airborne grace with a touch of street smarts.

bstavro@tribune.com

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