NBA Mount Rushmore – The Millennium Edition

Over the past week, LeBron James sparked a little debate when he provided his version of the NBA Mount Rushmore.  His list included Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Oscar Robertson.

However, what really made news was when LeBron mentioned that one of these players would be replaced by King James, when he retires.  During all-star weekend other players such as Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant also provided their own lists for discussion.

NBA Mount Rushmore – The Millennium Edition

There are so many factors that one could use to create their own version of a “Mount Rushmore”.  Would you base it on championships, career statistics, or overall impact on the game?

With so many great NBA players, from different generations, one’s own list may depend on when you first began to follow basketball.  Every fan will have their own group of players that not only introduced them to the NBA, but also provided long lasting memories and moments that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

It would be safe to assume that if the NBA had their own version of “Mount Rushmore” today, that mountain would have a combination of Jordan, Bird, Magic, Russell, Robertson, Wilt Chamberlain, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

But what if we looked at only the past decade or so?  Over the past 10 years, the NBA has never been more popular in North America or globally.  There are more stars in the NBA than ever before, and more avenues for fans to follow their favourite players.

What if we created a millennium edition “Mount Rushmore”; where your list would be based on player’s performance from the year 2000 onward?

If this was the case, here are the faces that would make up my list (in no particular order):

 

1.       Kobe Bryant

Statistical averages from 2000 to date: 26.9 PPG / 5.3 APG / 5.5 RPG / 1.5 SPG / .450 FG%
Championships from 2000 to date: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010
Accolades from 2000 to date:

  • 15 consecutive NBA All-Star team selections (2000 – 2014)
  • 2007-2008 NBA MVP
  • 2 NBA Finals MVP (2008 – 2009, 2009-2010)

As the first true player to be rightfully compared to Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant has been one of the most accomplished NBA players since 2000.  The Black Mamba is ranked 4th all-time for total points scored in NBA history and in the past 14 seasons, Bryant has been to the NBA finals seven times, winning five championships.

 

2.       LeBron James

Statistical averages from 2003 to date: 27.5 PPG / 6.9 APG / 7.2 RPG / 1.7 SPG / .495 FG%
Championships from 2003 to date: 2012, 2013
Accolades from 2003 to date:

  • 10 consecutive NBA All-Star team selections (2005 – 2014)
  • 4 time NBA MVP (2008-2009, 2009-2010, 2011-2010, 2012-2013)
  • 2 time  Finals MVP (2011 – 2012, 2012-2013)

Now mentioned as the 1a to Michael Jordan, LeBron James has surpassed all expectations when he was drafted in 2003 and has arguably been the most polarizing sports athlete of the past decade.  His career average of 27.5 PPG puts him 3rd all-time behind only Jordan and Chamberlain.  Currently, in his 11th season, James still has another 8-9 more years to build on his legacy and potentially surpass Jordan as the greatest of all-time.

 

3.       Tim Duncan

Statistical averages from 2000 to date: 19.4 PPG / 3.1 APG / 10.9 RPG / 2.2 BPG / .503 FG%
Championships from 2000 to date: 2003, 2005, 2007
Accolades from 2000 to date:

  • 12 NBA All-Star team selections (2000 – 2011, 2013)
  • 2 time NBA MVP (2001-2002, 2002-2003)
  • 2 time NBA Finals MVP (2002 – 2003, 2004-2005)

Tim Duncan is the greatest power forward in the history of the NBA, and has been the leader of one the top NBA teams of the past 14 seasons.  Although Duncan does not have gaudy statistical numbers like LeBron and Kobe, Duncan has been the role model for consistency since entering the league in 1997.  This season will mark the 17th straight year that the Spurs have made the playoffs, and I am guessing there is no coincidence that their playoff streak coincides with Duncan’s 17th season in the NBA.

 

4.       Shaquille O’Neal

Statistical averages from 2000 to date: 21.3 PPG / 2.4 APG / 10.6 RPG / 2.0 BPG / .594 FG%
Championships from 2000 to date: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2006
Accolades from 2000 to date:

  • 9 NBA All-Star team selections (2000 – 2007, 2009)
  • 6 time All-NBA 1st team selections (2000 – 2005)
  • 2 time NBA Finals MVP (2000 – 2001, 2001-2002)

In the post-Jordan era, Shaquille O’Neal became one of the faces of the NBA and was arguably the league’s biggest star.  Shaq ranks top ten all-time in total field goals (11,330), field goal percentage (.582), total points (28,596), and total blocks (2,732).  Although the latter years of Shaq’s career were somewhat forgettable, there may never again be a more physically dominant big man to play in the NBA.