Mount Rushmore is over.
Let’s face it, there’s not a day that goes by in America where someone isn’t debating a Mount Rushmore of something — the Mount Rushmore of NFL coaches, the Mount Rushmore of rock bands, the Mount Rushmore of presidents who didn’t make the cut for Mount Rushmore.
And it’s not just columnists, sports-talk radio hosts and bar-room loudmouths. The candidates in such debates are even using Mount Rushmore as a way to measure their own greatness.
LeBron James described his Mount Rushmore of basketball players at the league’s All-Star Game — Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. He let everyone know that either someone was going to get chiseled off the Mount, or they would have to find some space to add a fifth — himself.
It’s gotten out of control. I’ll bet most people couldn’t even tell you where Mount Rushmore was, and some of them couldn’t game the four historical figures honored on the South Dakota monument.
But I’ve been inspired by a new film — “Noah” — to create a new measurement of historical greatness.
Russell Crowe stars in the film, scheduled to be released March 28, and unless it is about the life of Joakim Noah, the movie is about the Noah who built the first cruise ship because of the flood that was going to destroy the world.
The tale has Noah picking two of every living animal to take on his Ark. Why not athletes?
Picking two from each sport that you would take on Noah’s Ark presents a lot more opportunities than Mount Rushmore.
Now that could cover a lot of ground if you try to include every so-called sport on the planet — such as the two curlers you would bring on the Ark, though they may be helpful with the sweeping. But it could be as big or small of a boat you want. It may be Noah’s Ark, but you’re doing the booking. It’s not like you’re actually messing with history here.
Here’s my Noah’s Ark — and sorry, LeBron. Hopefully, you can swim.
Football — Jim Brown and Lawrence Taylor. Let’s face it, if you are carving figures into the side of a mountain, loading up an ark or who you want walking down the street with you in a tough neighborhood, you want Jim Brown. It was tempting to put Dexter Manley on here for the entertainment value — 40 days on an ark is a long time.
Baseball — Willie Mays and Walter Johnson. As legendary as Babe Ruth may be, Willie Mays is in any debate among the greatest all-around ballplayers of all time. Walter Johnson was simply the most dominant right-handed pitcher in baseball history over a span of two decades — dominance and durability. There were 110 games over that time where the opposing team failed to score a run, while winning 417 games. There’s room for the Big Train on my big boat.
Basketball — if we were simply picking the two greatest, then the two big men who have been joined at the hip historically will walk side by side up the gangplank to the ark — Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain. But my ark has symmetry to it — an offensive and defensive player in football, a position player and pitcher in baseball. So my basketball choices for the ark are a big man and a guard — Russell and Jordan.
Chamberlain may have been the greatest force of nature in basketball history, but if you’re in an ark in rough seas, you want to guy who led his team to 11 NBA championships. Along those same lines, I passed on Robertson — the only player to average a triple double for an entire season — in favor of Jordan and his six NBA titles. I’ll make room on the ark for championship trophies.
Hockey — Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky. This may have been the easiest of them all. Not that there aren’t many great hockey players that come up for debate among the greatest in NHL history, but there appears to be a general consensus that Howe — known as “Mr. Hockey,” competing in five decades, a six-time MVP — was the greatest NHL player until Gretzky came along. When Gretzky, with nine MVP awards, retired in 1999, he held 40 regular-season records and 15 playoff records
We could go on and add two of each from boxing, soccer, track — heck, even billiards. But the big four get first passage on my Noah’s Ark. Two of the greatest from each sport — and leave Mount Rushmore to the presidents.
• Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 radio and espn980.com
• Thom Loverro can be reached at email@example.com.
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