By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL/Designated Writers

With the death of Willis Reed, it got us to thinking on SportsTalk about a Mount Rushmore of North Louisiana basketball players. (To be honest, it doesn’t take much for us to come up with Mount Rushmore categories.)

Reed was famously known as a center and captain of the New York Knicks, but ’round here in these parts, he’s a Bernice native who went on to play at Grambling. That’s a serious North Louisiana stamp on him.

So here’s what we came up with. See if you agree.

WILLIS REED: Might as well bat him leadoff in honor of his recent passing. He checks a bunch of boxes — he’s in the Basketball Hall of Fame and was named as one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players. In 1970, he became the first player to be MVP in the All-Star Game, regular season MVP and Finals MVP in leading the Knicks to the title. In the finals, he suffered a leg injury that forced him to miss Game 6 and it looked like the Knicks might be in jeopardy. But there’s the famous clip of Reed limping out of the locker room in dramatic fashion and then making the first two baskets of the game. (It should be noted that those were the only two baskets he made all game.) Howard Cosell famously said to him after the game. “You exemplify the very best that the human spirit can offer.”

KARL MALONE: Played at Summerfield Hgh, where they won three straight Class C titles, then led Louisiana Tech to the Sweet 16 in 1985 in the Bulldogs’ greatest season to date. He’s a 14-time All-Star and in the Basketball Hall of Fame. How many guys have won multiple MVPs? Not many, but he’s on that list. Oh, and he is the third-leading scorer in the history of the NBA. Yep, that’s more than enough.

ROBERT PARISH: Played at Union High and Woodlawn High in Shreveport, then went across town and played at Centenary College when he became a first-round NBA draft pick in 1976 after twice being a first-round pick in the ABA.. He was part of the Boston Celtics’ “Big Three” along with Larry Bird and Kevin McHale in winning NBA titles in 1981, 1984 and 1986. (He was actually on the roster of the ’97 NBA Champion Chicago Bulls, so there’s that.) Nobody has played in more regular season games in the history of the NBA. An NBA front office person once told me Parish’s body and durability “was a freak of nature.”

Tough call on No. 4, but let’s go with …

ELVIN HAYES: He’s a Rayville native, so he meets the geographic qualification. He went on to play at the University of  Houston and was one of the greatest college basketball players of all time. Hayes was the overall No. 1 pick of both the NBA and ABA Draft. Then he became a 14-time All Star, led Washington to the 1978 NBA title and went on to be a Basketball Hall of Fame selection. That’ll work.

Joe Dumars? Jackie Moreland? Calvin Natt? All worthy. Probably even a few more out there.

Nevertheless, start chiseling.

Listen to SportsTalk with JJ & Bonzai Ben weekday from 5-6 p.m. on AM1130 The Tiger (KWKH)