Steve Smith says NBA TV interview is ‘most candid’ LeBron has been in years

theGRIO REPORT - Mount Rushmore as a sports analogy has never been as popular as it is now. Thank NBA TV analyst Steve Smith for that...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Mount Rushmore as a sports analogy has never been as popular as it is now.

Thank NBA TV analyst Steve Smith for that.

Smith recently asked LeBron James to name his “Mount Rushmore” of NBA greats, a slightly different take on a popular question and topic among sports fans, athletes and media members.

For Smith, the analogy came from him thinking “outside of the box” while preparing for his sit-down with the NBA’s reigning MVP.

“Obviously when I was a player and we’ve all done it, [people ask] ‘who’s your starting five of all-time?'” Smith told in a phone interview. “I thought about the four presidents up on Mount Rushmore – and to answer that question, it would be tough. I thought that would be an interesting question [for LeBron].”

James answered, listing Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson as his picks.

And then pretty much everyone else in and out of the NBA answered too. Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant weighed in. Pacers center Roy Hibbert offered his ‘Mount Rushmore’ of Georgetown big men.

When Derek Jeter announced the upcoming MLB season would be his last, ESPN even floated the question: Does Jeter belong on the ‘Mount Rushmore’ of Yankee greats?

Again, thank Smith for that.

He said he knew the attention and excitement around the question would build as soon as NBA TV released the excerpt last Tuesday.

“I’m excited for my kids, they’ve been saying ‘dad it’s exploding, it’s going everywhere,'” Smith said.

Smith played 14 seasons in the NBA, retiring in 2005. He was named to the All-Star team in 1998 as a guard for Atlanta Hawks. He is a fixture on NBA TV as an analyst and programs such as the channel’s “Open Court” series. 

Smith wouldn’t reveal specific details of the interview, but he said this is the “most candid” James has been in recent memory. 

“[People] are going to be surprised,” Smith said. “Even the topics off of basketball got him talking […] I digged a little bit deeper finding out about LeBron James ‘the man.'”

Before the seasons started, Smith picked the Heat to reach the NBA Finals along with the Clippers. He’s sticking with his picks but says the Heat’s chances hinge on health and getting quality minutes from players not named LeBron, Wade or Bosh.

“I think if [the Heat] can get 15 to 20 minutes out of Greg Oden and keep Beasley…they have a good chance […],” Smith said.

Smith’s interview with James airs tonight at 9 p.m. ET on NBA TV.

 Follow’s Todd Johnson on Twitter @rantoddj