said he will be on the NBA's "Mount Rushmore" when he retires. (Thearon W. Henderson/NBA/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS -- LeBron James' assessment of the NBA's "Mount Rushmore" and his prediction that he would earn a spot among the league's top four all-time greats when he retired were hot topics at Friday's All-Star media availability.
The four-time MVP selected Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Oscar Robertson as his top four in an NBA TV interview, but added that room would need to be made for him whenever he decides to call it quits.
“I’m going to be one of the top four to ever play this game,” James said in the interview. “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.”
On Friday, James stood by his selections and named two Lakers greats when prompted for his top snubs.
"Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] and Kobe [Bryant]," he said. "Those are two guys that came to my mind too. It’s hard to knock anybody off. There needs to be another mountain built. It’s too many guys. I definitely was thinking about Kobe as a top-four of all time, Kareem, for sure. There are so many greats that have played this game."
Thunder forward Kevin Durant, meanwhile, argued that Abdul-Jabbar would replace Robertson on his own Mount Rushmore.
"If I had a four, it would be Michael, Larry, Magic and Kareem," Durant said. "[Abdul-Jabbar is] the all-time leader in points. How many championships does he got? Multiple championships. MVPs. He’s got it all. As far as accolades and championships, he’s got it all."
Indeed, Abdul-Jabbar won six titles, six MVP awards and was a 19-time All-Star during his Hall of Fame career. He remains the NBA's all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points.
Jazz great Karl Malone, a two-time MVP, 14-time All-Star and No. 2 on the all-time scoring list, humorously declined to pick his own Mount Rushmore. The Mailman's lack of championship credentials hurts his standing in this type of conversation, and he bristled in general at the concept of ranking the game's all-time greats.
"Unless it’s something to do about hunting and fishing, it ain’t a lot of s--- on Mount Rushmore," he said. "I don’t have nobody up there. If it ain’t some hunting and fishing up there, I have no desire to be up there. I don’t have one. I don’t know who started top four, top five and all of that. That’s a crock. You can’t get four or five."
Still, Malone had no problem with James' assertions, going so far as to defend his right to make such sweeping legacy statements.
"If you’re as good as [James] and you go out and back it up, you can say what the hell you want to say," Malone concluded.
During the 2013 All-Star media availability, James acknowledged 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.
That approach remain the same one year later.
"There’s no reason I couldn’t be number one," James said. "Any time I bring up a subject or answer a question, guys like to dissect it and make it bigger or smaller than what it is. Those are my personal goals. My personal goal is to be the greatest of all time. I don’t really care what other people say. Where they put me, how they define me. You can have a poll of 100 people: 'What do you think?' That’s not for me to care about. For me, I have an opportunity to maximize my career, be the greatest of all time, and I feel like I can do that."