The greatest champion in basketball history won 11 championships in just 13 seasons with Boston, two of which came as a dual player/coach. Russell was also the first of only four people to win an NCAA championship and an NBA championship in back-to-back seasons, and the first black head coach in any major U.S. professional sport. William F. “Bill” Russell was a true pioneer for sports in general, not just basketball. Russell, the greatest defensive center of all time, made a career by sticking on his opponents like a guard dog and blocking shots like he was programmed to do so. The sheer frequency of his authoritative shot swats had never been witnessed in basketball before his time. Placement on the inaugural NBA All-Defensive First Team in his final season (1969) finally acknowledged his game-changing defensive.
Russell’s rebounding was a complimentary asset to his defensive style. The first player to average more than 20 rebounds per game in a single season replicated that feat nine more times throughout his career. His 51-rebound performance currently stands as the second highest single-game rebound total behind Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain’s 55. Naturally, put-backs and beautiful outlet passes were a staple of his offensive post-game, being the physical rebounder he was. Russell’s outlet passes were especially amazing, beaming the ball mid-air to his legendary teammate point-guard Bob Cousy for quick, fast-break points.
With as many MVP awards as Jordan (5) and 12 All-Star game appearances, equal to Bird, a case can certainly be made for Russell as the greatest.
The jury is still out
Larry Bird is the NBA’s greatest on-court strategist of all time. Kobe Bryant is the NBA’s greatest opportunist of all time. LeBron James is the NBA’s greatest raw athlete of all time. Michael Jordan is the NBA’s greatest clutch-performer of all time. Bill Russell is the NBA’s greatest champion of all time.
But who is the greatest of them of all? At this time Jordan is still considered the frontrunner, and for good reason. But Kobe and Lebron still have unfinished business in the NBA. As such, the jury is still out in the eyes of many.
No matter who you think is the greatest player ever, enjoy this year’s NBA postseason as it brings many more moments for the highlight reels and record books!