The 2014 NBA All-Star game was devoid of Celtics for the first time in years, making it mostly an opportunity for Cs fans to watch a collection of massive dunks, highlight reel dribbling and incredible passing from a distance.
But during a break in the action, Bill Russell — who was sitting courtside — was serenaded with an off-key rendition of “Happy Birthday” from Magic Johnson and the New Orleans crowd in honor of his 80th birthday on February 12. Afterwards, nearly every player on both squads filed past to shake his hand.
The attention prompted a report from Craig Sager. Apparently, Russell had some thoughts on the latest trending topic around the NBA: LeBron’s Mount Rushmore. Here’s Russell to LeBron, according to Sager’s sideline report:
“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 in my last year, and nine in between. That, Mr. James, is etched in stone.”
Video and some thoughts after the jump…
Russell seemingly chastising LeBron for not appreciating that basketball is a team game seems a little bit odd, given LeBron’s generally unselfish playing style, but that’s really neither here nor there. LeBron may be the greatest player in the NBA right now, and someday his name very well might come up on people’s Mount Rushmore of NBA players, but he has a long ways to go before he can begin to challenge Russell both in terms of championships (he probably will never get there) and impact on the game (he almost certainly will never get there, given Russell’s history with the Civil Rights Movement).
Let’s not belabor this point, however. The reason we are posting this is because it’s an incredible quote. I don’t know where Russell’s championships are etched in stone but if they aren’t already, let’s make it happen, stone-etchers.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.