DALLAS — It is now possible to erect a new Mt. Rushmore from the words written and spoken on the subject since LeBron James shared his rock-solid, all-time NBA foursome during a wide-ranging interview with NBA TV over All-Star weekend.
As news cycles go, Mt. Rushmore is burning Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman deep. James didn’t ask for it, but he did say it and now we, the media, can’t stop asking anybody associated with a round, orange ball whom they’d put on their own Mt. Rushmore.
Shawn Marion, the 6-foot-7 Mavericks small forward who did a magnificent defensive job on James during the 2011 Finals — and is just the type of savvy veteran (and a free agent this summer, to boot) Miami loves to place around its King sculptor — said after Tuesday morning’s shootaround that James wouldn’t be on his Mt. Rushmore, at least not yet.
By the time the news of this injustice got back to James during his pregame media session in the visiting locker room about 90 minutes before he buried Dallas with 42 points, nine rebounds and six assists in a 117-106 win, it came to him in the watered-down context that he flat-out didn’t make the cut on Marion’s Mt. Rushmore.
James was already in something of a foul mood, having decided to reveal a stern demeanor to show his teammates that the league was back open for business, and so was he. Less than 72 hours after rocking the stage with the The Roots at a New Orleans warehouse party, and 48 hours after playing in the All-Star Game, the Mt. Rushmore recurrence again put LeBron in a mood to scale the mountain.
“I really don’t care what people say or what people think, that’s not for me or my concern,” James said. “I think, once again, it was blown out of context. But, I feel like when it’s all said and done, my personal goal is that I can be one of the greatest to ever play this game, and I won’t sell myself short and I won’t continue to stop believing and saying and thinking what I believe in as far as personal goals. So, it doesn’t matter what Shawn Marion says, or what anybody says about the way I play the game of basketball.”
Is Mt. Rushmore becoming bulletin-board material? James was asked.
“I don’t need bulletin board material,” he answered. “My bulletin board material is the name on the back of my jersey and the name on the front of my jersey; and the youth and the kids that I inspire every day, every time I go out on the basketball court. And I witnessed that Saturday when I had my foundation event in New Orleans, when I was able to give back to a Boys And Girls Club and see over 30, 35, 40 kids smiling the whole time by my presence being there. My calling is much bigger than basketball. While everybody else focuses on just basketball, I’m focused on bigger and better things.”
He wasn’t finished: “And, you know, nobody can still guard me one-on-one.”
Not Marion or anybody else Dallas tried on him. James had 30 points after three quarters, but with Dwyane Wade only 4-for-7 overall from the floor, the Heat trailed by one point, 85-84. LeBron got some needed help from his friends to start the fourth. He sat out the first 4:13, while Dirk Nowitzki was in, trying to be all things for his club with 22 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. With James out, Miami only lost three points and trailed 95-92.
James returned and it was, as they say, church. He went coast-to-coast, he dunked forcefully, hit step backs and drained four 3s on the night and shot 16-for-23 overall.
“When we turned it off, he was gone,” Marion said afterward. “He’s one of the fastest guys in the league in the open court. After his fourth open-court dunk, the basket started to get bigger for him. Then he started pulling up from 3 and started hitting some. It just opened the game up.”
As soon as he checked in, he scored eight consecutive points and fueled a 16-0 run as Miami’s defense also stiffened. When James could have been fatigued — from hitting the game-winner on the last night of games before the break and flying in the wee hours Friday morning from Oakland to New Orleans; participating in numerous NBA activities throughout the weekend; and suiting up in Dallas on the first night games resumed — James didn’t flinch when asked before the game if he’d gotten much rest.
“No, I haven’t but I’m ready,” James said. “I’ll be ready tonight and if I continue to stay on the path that I’m on, obviously I want to stay injury-free, we all want to stay injury-free, that’s the No. 1 thing, but I’ll be all right.”
On Thursday, the Heat (38-14) conclude this six-game, all Western Conference road trip with a visit to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the return of Russell Westbrook and against Kevin Durant, the man who’s tired of finishing second to the King. With or without Mt. Rushmore pushing him, James will be ready to close out this business trip.
“In this league you pay for motor,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And he’s got all of it, he’s got talent, motor, skill, dedication. But the motor is one of the things that stands out the most. It’s in every practice, it’s [Monday] in practice, it’s [Tuesday] in shootaround. He only knows one way; he’s hyperactive.
“So when you can channel that on a competitive field, that’s special.”