You may have missed it, but the debate du jour last week was over which basketball players deserved to be on the NBA's Mount Rushmore.
LeBron James sparked the debate when he told NBA TV's Steve Smith that Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson would be the four players on his Mount Rushmore. But he made sure to note that he’d be on the monument one day.
“I’m going to be one of the top four that’s ever played this game, for sure,” James said.
That sparked a debate among NBA observers over who deserves to be on the NBA’s Mount Rushmore and what makes a player an all-time great.
One interesting voice in this debate was George Karl. The ESPN analyst has been in and around the game for most of his life. He also coached Carmelo Anthony in Denver for seven-plus seasons.
So Karl was asked on SportsCenter about the difference between a player like Anthony, who hasn’t been mentioned as a “Mount Rushmore” candidate, and the all-time greats in the NBA.
“I think it all comes down to what is first on the list of their priorities. The great players -- it’s all about winning and it’s all about team and it’s about championship and it’s about sacrificing and disciplining yourself to where you try to get better and improve on a daily basis,” Karl said.
The implication there is that Anthony doesn’t do those things. Plenty of people around the Knicks may disagree with that sentiment.
Karl has an interesting perspective on Anthony. He coached Anthony as a younger player and he and Anthony reportedly butted heads at times. Karl also seemed to tire of the “MeloDrama” that engulfed the team in Anthony’s last season with the Nuggets.
Anthony led Denver to the playoffs every season, but the Nuggets made it out of the first round just once during his time there.
Later in the interview on SportsCenter, Karl expanded on the difference between the NBA’s all-time greats and a supremely talented player, such as Anthony.
“There’s an energy to a great player, there’s a leadership that you feel all around them. And then there are individual players that are very talented players ... That list hasn’t only got Melo on it, but it’s got a lot of players on it,” Karl said.
“Then as a coach, as an organization ... you try to mold them into a team player that wants to win a championship. But the great player, so much of the greatness in my mind is in his heart and his head. It’s not in his body, in his skill set. It comes from having great talent but wanting to mold that and fit it together into being special. And being special means winning championships.”
Anthony has said several times this season that his sole focus is to win an NBA title. That will be his top priority in free agency this summer.
"That's the only thing I care about," Anthony said earlier this month. "Anything else is irrelevant to me as far as when it comes to basketball. Championship is the only thing that's on my mind.”
You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.