Why Bill Russell is a Top 3 Player of All Time
Bill Russell, in my eyes, is a top 3 player of all time. Russell was a superior defender and an excellent rebounder. Despite his size, a 6’9 center, Russell could defend anybody. If Russell was covering you, there was a good chance your shot was going to be blocked. Back when Bill played, they didn’t count blocks, but if they did, his blocks per game would be off the charts. Russell was also a ferocious rebounder. Over the course of his career, the Celtics’ legend averaged 22.5 rebounds per game! That is the second highest in NBA history behind only Wilt Chamberlain. Russell is one of the only 2 players to ever grab over 20,000 rebounds. In his entire career, Russell snatched 21,620 rebounds. The 12 time all star once grabbed 51 rebounds in one game. He also got 49 boards in two different games.
Russell did a lot more than just block shots and rebound. He was a born winner. In Russell’s 13 years as an NBA player, he led the Boston Celtics to 11 championship titles, and 8 of those 11 titles were consecutive. And, Russell was such a great leader; he won two NBA titles as a player/coach. Along with 11 rings, Russell won 5 MVP awards, and Rookie of the year award. Bill won the MVPN award during years when wilt would put up 30/20. One year, Wilt averaged 50/25 but it was Russell who was the Most Valuable Player. The Celtics had all the right pieces for a championship team, but they built the team around Bill Russell, who was the one who really carried the team.
People criticize Russell of not being a good scorer. Sure he wasn’t the league leader in points, but he did score 15.1 points per game for his career. Although that is not a superior number, it is not bad either. Russell also had many teammates that could score the ball. Throughout his career, Bill Russell had great scorers on his team like Sam Jones, John Havlicek, Tom Heinson, and Bailey Howell. So with other great scorers on his team, it was not Russell’s role to carry the team with scoring, but it was his role to be the leader. If the Celtics needed Russell to fill the scoring role, he could have been a 20+ point per game player. Another reason Russell wasn’t a bad scorer is that he was efficient. Early on in his career, Russell was one of the top 5 most efficient scorers. In 1958-1959, Russell was second in the NBA for field goal percentage, shooting .457. The Legendary center was also an extraordinary passer for a big man. For his career, he averaged 4.3 assists per game. In fact, in the 1966-67 season, Russell averaged 5.8 assists per game. This shows he was a willing passer. Russell averaged more assists than other NBA legends such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, and Karl Malone. In all NBA history, there has not been a better leader than Russell to step onto a basketball court.
The cornerstone of a great Celtics franchise, Bill Russell, always stepped his game up when it came to the playoffs. He improved almost every area of his game, from scoring, to rebounding, to passing, even free throw percentage. In his playoff career, Russell averaged 24.9 rebounds per game, which is the highest in NBA playoffs history to this day. One year, in the 1960-1961 playoffs, Bill grabbed 29.9 boards per game. Also, in the 1959 NBA Finals, Russell set an NBA record with 29.5 rebounds per game. That record still stands today. Russell also stepped up his scoring in the playoffs. For his playoffs career, he averaged 16.2 points per game which is a 1.1 point per game increase. Not that much of an increase, but in the 1961-1962 playoffs, Bill put up 22.4 points per game. In the regular season that year, he averaged 18.9 points per game. The next season, Russell again averaged more than 20 points per game in the playoffs. In the 62-63 playoffs, the Hall of Famer averaged 20.3 points per game which is a big increase from the regular season 16.9 points per game. Overall, Russell is one of the great players in NBA history, and he will forever be remembered as the greatest winner in the National Basketball Association.
“There are two types of superstars. One makes himself look good at the expense of the other guys on the floor. But there’s another type who makes the players around him look better than they are, and that’s the type Russell was.”
– Don Nelson