won his fourth MVP award at age 28. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images Sport)
There's no doubt in LeBron James' mind that he will claim a spot on the "Mount Rushmore" of NBA greats by the time his career comes to a close.
The four-time MVP told NBA TV's Steve Smith that he is certain that he will go down as one of the league's four greatest players when he decides to call it quits.
"I'm going to be one of the top four to ever play this game," James said. "For sure. And if they don't want me to have one of those top four spots, they better find another spot. We've got to bump somebody. Somebody got to get bumped. That's not for me to decide. That's for the architects, to chisel somebody's face out and put mine up there."
James, 29, is a 10-time All-Star, a nine-time All-NBA selection and a five-time All-Defensive selection.
Asked to name his top four all-time NBA greats, James rattled off three names quickly before weighing his options on the fourth name.
"Four NBA greats -- I would say, obviously, the easy three, that we all talk about in our league: Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson," he said. "I would say my fourth, wow, this is so tough. The greatest players of all time, that I would like to see on Mount Rushmore. This is not fair. This is not fair. You know how many great players there is? Oh my god, Oscar Robertson. Those are my four."
Notable snubs from James' list: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Jerry West, Shaquille O'Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon.
These statements mark a tone shift for James, who ducked questions about his legacy at 2013 All-Star Weekend in Houston.
“How do I want to be remembered when I’m 50?” James asked rhetorically. “I’m 28 years old, I ain’t thinking about that.”
Later that same day, though, James acknowledgd that his goal was to supplant Jordan -- who he called his "inspiration" and one of his childhood heroes -- as the greatest player of all time.
“I want to be the greatest of all time,” James said, adding: “As my talent continued to grow, as I continued to know about the game, appreciate the game, continued to get better, I felt like I had the drive, first of all, the passion, the commitment to the game to place myself as the greatest of all time, the best of all time, however you want to categorize it. I don’t do it to say I’m better than this guy or that guy. I do it for my own inspiration. I inspire myself. When I go out on the floor, I want to be the best of all time. That’s how I help myself each and every night.”
James, the youngest player to score 20,000 career points, will soon crack the top 25 of the all-time scoring list. He also possesses two championship rings and two Finals MVP awards.
Hat tip: Eye On Basketball