NEW ORLEANS — LeBron James has had all weekend to reconsider the list of players on his basketball version of Mount Rushmore.
Last week, the four-time MVP said his top four players were Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Oscar Robertson, adding that one of those will eventually be replaced by him. Those statements sparked a debate at All-Star Weekend about the game’s greatest players.
James stuck to his original list, but said there are plenty of other names who could be considered.
“Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar], Kobe [Bryant], it’s hard to knock anybody off,” James said. “There needs to be another mountain. It’s too many guys. I was definitely thinking of Kobe as the top four of all time. I think about Kareem for sure. There’s so many greats that played this game.”
James has been vocal about his desire to be the greatest player of all time, even eclipsing Jordan, to whom he is often compared.
“That’s my personal goal,” he said. “I don’t really care what other people say, where they put me, how they define me. That’s not for me to care about. For me, I have an opportunity to maximize my career and be the greatest of all time and I feel I can do that.”
Meanwhile, James is embroiled in an intriguing competition for this season’s MVP award with Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant. While Durant admitted he is fatigued by the pairing, James has embraced the rivalry.
“I don’t mind it,” he said. “You’re always going to be linked to somebody. Earlier in my career, I was linked to Kobe and now I’m linked to KD. You’re always going to be linked to somebody. It’s how you handle it.
“They don’t compare me and KD, they just talk about the two best players in the game and which one is better.”
Big Apple shakeup?
With the Knicks currently out of the playoff picture, there are rumors circulating that Mike Woodson could be soon out as a coach and impending free agent Carmelo Anthony could be traded.
Anthony professed his loyalty to New York, but wouldn’t go so far as to say he would re-sign.
“I don’t think I’ll be traded,” he said. “I don’t think there’s no way possible I’ll be traded. I don’t even think they’re considering me being traded. If they feel like they wanted to get rid of me, then I think we would have already had that conversation. Like I said, I know for a fact I’m not getting traded.”
Using the NBA’s new rather confounding format, Washington Wizards guard John Wall wowed the fans at Smoothie King Arena with one spectacular dunk to seal the Slam Dunk Contest for the Eastern Conference and earn the title of slam dunk champion.
Wall sprinted toward the Washington Wizards mascot who was holding the ball near the basket. The 6-foot 3-inch guard then leaped over the mascot, grabbed the ball, pumped and dunked in one motion, thrilling the crowd who appeared underwhelmed by most of the previous dunks.
The new format formed teams of three from the Eastern and Western Conferences who faced off against each other in one-on-one competition. The confusing format concluded when Wall bested Sacramento’s Ben McLemore, who leaped over a king’s chair containing minority owner Shaquille O’Neal. Judges Julius Erving, Magic Johnson and Dominique Wilkins each chose the Eastern Conference after Wall’s impressive dunk.
Fans online voted Wall the evening’s best dunker.
“It was only my second time doing (the dunk),” he said. “My first time was on Thursday. I knew it was a dunk that hasn’t been done before. And I knew it was the main thing with coming up with the creativity, and it worked out on my favor.”
San Antonio Spurs guard Marco Bellinelli won the 3-point contest in a tiebreaking round against Washington’s Bradley Beal. Favorite Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors was eliminated in the first round.
The team of Damian Lillard and Trey Burke won the Skills Competition and Chris Bosh’s team that included Wilkins and WNBA player Swin Cash won the Shooting Stars.
Silver talks tanking
In his first state of the league address as commissioner, Adam Silver said he does not think teams are “tanking” games in order to improve their chances of landing a premium lottery pick. The Celtics are among the teams who would be in the draft lottery if the season ended today.
“There’s absolutely no evidence that any team in the NBA has ever lost a single game or certainly in any time that I’ve been in the league, on purpose,” he said. “What you’re referring to I think is rebuilding. And I’m not sure it’s just a function of the collective bargaining agreement. I think there’s a balance with any team of the need to look out to the future and at the same time put a competitive product on the floor.”
Silver also said he wants to increase the age limit for entering the NBA Draft to 20 and he is not currently considering expansion.
While Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is not in New Orleans for All-Star festivities there is plenty of talk among NBA officials about the team’s potential activity before Thursday’s trade deadline. Ainge is expected to field a lot of calls on Brandon Bass, Jeff Green, Avery Bradley, Kris Humphries, and Rajon Rondo.
The Celtics are about $1.1 million below the luxury tax line, limiting the amount of money they can accept in deals if they do not want to be a repeat luxury tax offender.