Phil Jackson has spoken—if he had to draft a basketball dream team, his number one pick would not be Michael Jordan.
None of the above, according to Jackson.
“In my estimation, the guy that has to be there would be Bill Russell,” Jackson said in an interview with Time. “He has won 11 championships as a player. That’s really the idea of what excellence is, when you win championships.”
It’s logic that many will argue, but as another man with 11 NBA Finals rings to his name, Jackson’s choice is coming from a wealth of experience. After coaching Jordan with the Chicago Bulls and Kobe Bryant with the Los Angeles Lakers, Jackson knows dominance when he sees it. Looking back at Russell’s resume, it’s impossible to deny the legendary status the former Boston Celtics superstar earned in the league.
Russell was a member of the powerhouse Celtics dynasties of the mid-20th century, winning 11 titles, five MVP awards and 12 All-Star team nods in his 13 years in Boston.
Compare that to Jordan, whom played under Jackson in the ‘90s and won six NBA titles, five MVP awards and 14 All Star nods during his 14-year career with the Bulls (we’re going to forget about that whole Washing Wizards thing, at least for the nonce).
In MVP and All Star recognitions, the two are matched pretty evenly, but as you’ve likely noted, there is a fat difference in the number of NBA titles each has earned. Eleven trumps six any day, but it’s also worth remember they played in different times, with different teammates.
Jordan was a voracious scorer. Russell was an inhuman shotblocker. They were very different, except for the fact they commanded the respect and fear of every opponent they faced.
This leaves us with the question: is the Zen Master drinking too much herbal tea? Or is he dead on again, as he happened to be so many times while coaching the greatest players in the game.
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