DALLAS — If only Mount Rushmore could have been built as fast as LeBron James’ comments about his personal NBA Mount Rushmore have been deconstructed.
Monday, it was a case of arguably the game’s greatest defensive player ever putting the Miami Heat forward on the defensive.
In the wake of James offering up during an NBA TV interview his NBA Mount Rushmore of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Oscar Robertson, while also saying he could eventually see himself carving a place for himself, TNT analyst Craig Sager brought up the subject to legendary Boston Celtics center Bill Russell.
According to Sager, Russell told him, “Hey, thank you for leaving me off your Mount Rushmore. I’m glad you did. Basketball is a team game. It’s not for individual honors. I won back-to-back state championships in high school, back-to-back NCAA championships in college, I won an NBA championship my first year in the league, an NBA championship my last year, and nine in between. And that, Mr. James, is etched in stone.”
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That left James again caught up in a Rushmore rush after practice Monday at American Airlines Center, in advance of the Heat’s game Tuesday against the Dallas Mavericks.
“Well, obviously there’s the utmost respect for Bill Russell and what he’s been able to do, and not only on the floor, but off the floor, too, being a pioneer, being one of the leaders that helped us get to this point,” James said. “He paved the way for myself and the guys that came after him.
“For me to comment on his comments, it doesn’t really matter to me. He has his own opinions. He’s his own man and I’m my own man, too.”
James’ disappointment was how a snippet from the hourlong interview took on a life of its own.
“The facts are the facts, and that’s what I believe in myself,” he said. “Once again, these are my personal goals. I don’t care where no one else puts me, as far as where the best ever, or analysts or so-called gurus of basketball, place me when I’m done.
“These are my personal goals. I believe I can be one of the best, if not the best to ever play this game and that’s my personal goal. If someone wants to throw dirt on my own, personal goals, then they have a problem, not me.”
Westbrook seems set to return
OKLAHOMA CITY — Injured Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook will return Thursday against the Miami Heat, his teammate, Kevin Durant said in a recent interview with Grantland’s Bill Simmons.
Westbrook has missed 27 games since having surgery Dec. 27 to deal with swelling in his injured right knee — the third procedure in nine months.
The three-time NBA All-Star tore the lateral meniscus in his right knee during the second game of the playoffs last April.
Westbrook underwent an operation after that injury and had another procedure Oct. 1 to remove a loose stitch.
Oklahoma City went 20-7 this season without him.
The Thunder didn’t immediately respond to calls and emails regarding Westbrook’s status.
Oklahoma City (43-12) entered the NBA All-Star break with the league’s best record.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.