When it comes to the debate about the greatest basketball players of all time, there are a lot of familiar names that inevitably pop up. Micheal Jordan is the consensus No. 1 on most people’s lists, but there are arguments to be made for guys like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, i.e. the NBA’s all-time leading scorer; Wilt Chamberlain, who once averaged more than 50 points per game for an entire season and boasts the league’s only 100-point game, a mark that might never be reached again; and even Oscar Robertson, who averaged a triple-double for an entire season (and almost did it again the following year).
But one name in particular that is often omitted from the discussion is the great Bill Russell. Over a span of 13 years, from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, Russell led Boston to an astounding 11 championships, forever solidifying the Celtics’ place as the greatest dynasty in not only NBA history, but perhaps all of professional sports.
Russell never had the gaudy numbers like MJ or Kareem, but he is arguably one of the best defenders the league has ever seen, and had a rare combination of size, speed, and agility that was ahead of his time. His competitive nature was also on par with any of the NBA’s most borderline sociopathic personalities who we like to mythologize so much these days. Perhaps most important, though, were his contributions to the Civil Rights movement during a volatile time in our nation’s history.