Phil Jackson says he would take Bill Russell over Michael Jordan to start team

  • Frank Santos

The success Phil Jackson and Michael Jordan had together is well-documented, to say the least. You would assume that if given the opportunity, Jackson would take Jordan to start his franchise, given all of their aforementioned success. However, you know what they say about assuming…

In an interview with Time Magazine, Jackson instead says he would take Celtics legend Bill Russell over Jordan if given the choice:

“In my estimation, the guy that has to be there would be Bill Russell. He has won 11 championships as a player,” Jackson said in an interview with Time. “That’s really the idea of what excellence is, when you win championships.”

The championship argument is sort of a cop-out. If that is your only criteria, Robert Horry is better than Kobe Bryant, which is obviously not the case. On the other hand, there is no way you can minimize how amazing Russell’s run was with legendary coach Red Auerbach. Jackson was a bit more politically correct when asked a similar question in regards to Jordan, and the other player Jackson is most commonly linked to, Kobe Bryant:

“I would flip a coin,” he said. “Whichever one came up heads or tails, I’d take that person. They were that good.”

A part of me believes strongly Jackson is purposefully making these types of statements for the mere purpose of promoting his new book, but that’s his prerogative,  and probably a wise one at that. I am way too young to give an educated opinion on Bill Russell’s game, so I am biased towards Jordan naturally, but that by no means says Russell is the wrong answer. This often happens with these types of debates; people think that there is only one answer to an opinionated debate.

Russell or Jordan, I think you’d be fine either way, but then again, that’s just my assumption.

By: Frank Santos

Share & Rate

  • Rate this post

From Around The Web

From SK Network

discussion by

About The Author

Frank Santos

Frank Santos - manager

20 Responses to Phil Jackson says he would take Bill Russell over Michael Jordan to start team

  • I’d take LeBron over MJ, Wilt over Russell. I did not always think this way until I read some guy’s website on “Wilt Chamberlain Greatest Ever.”(paraphrasing…google that and it should come up) His conclusions after much research are hard to argue with. I’m retired and once watched my Celtics play on black and white TV during my second grade home birthday party! Wilt did not have a team around him like Russell until the 76’ers with Hal Greer. Lakers were just icing on the cake. Wilt would kill anyone else today! His stats are off the charts! Sidenote: Phil Jackson not too long ago said if he could pick ANY current player to build a team around, it would be…Dwight Howard! My things have changed since that bonehead comment!

    • Pete Jackson believes in inside out basketball that is why he likes big men to build a team. Interesting that with the triangle offense, and MJ he won 6 titles without a good big man. If Shaq and Kobie were mature enough they might have rewrote a lot of record books. They should have won in 2004. Why they had Peyton was beyond me. Not Phil’s type of guard, and plugged the paint.

  • hey folks lets not get besides ourselfs MJ is the greatest ever russel had all stars threw out his team and there was no other teams that could compette with the celtics during them years MJ G O A T dont forget that

  • I agree with Phil Jackson. I was born in 1961, in the early part of the year. My dad was a star basketball player in high school and a student at the University of San Francisco who traveled to New York with the team when they won the NIT in 1949. He was a die hard Celtics fan as Russell and K.C. Jones later led his alma mater to back to back NCAA Division 1 Championships. I read a kids biography of Jerry West given to me on my 4th birthday, and instantly became a die hard Lakers fan. I painfully watched (with my dad) Russell and Company beat the Lakers in the Finals in 1965, 1966, 1968, and 1969. I’ve seen all the great players since play on TV (and a fair number in person). IMO, Russell also had to overcome more and endure more than a lot of other great players….and 11 championships. Amazing.

  • Hate to put you down Frank but you deserve it on this one. Your point about Horry winning more than Koby is incredibly stupid. Phil wasn’t saying that at all. He was talking about truly great players who LEAD teams to championship…not good players who happened to be on teams with great players.

    • Yeah, I usually deserve it. I was simply trying to say Jackson was using the reasoning to deflect truly answering the question definitively. However, I understand your rebuttal. Thanks for reading!

  • Phil has been away from the game too long and its fogged his memory . Wilt totally dominated Russell satistically in their head to head battles … far more points and rebounds . Yes , Russell teams won 14 more games and more titles … but Russell played with Hall of Fame teammates . Wilt played with one Hall of Famer (Chet Walker) before joining a couple on the Lakers .

  • You can not compare Bill Russell to Michael Jordon as you can not compare Babe Ruth to Barry bonds ,just look how the games have changed . The designated hitter in baseball and the three point shot in basketball just for a couple changes. You could compare Bill Russell to wilt Chamberlin or Michael Jordon to Kobe Bryant. Now I think you would have a discussion.

  • The truth is the players from yesterday are from a different time. The game was much slower, no 3 pointers and much of the athletes from yesterday would never be drafted today. There are those few handful of players (Wilt, Russell, etc.) that could still play in todays game. Championships should not define great players. Robert Horry and Derek Fisher are not great players, they were good role players. They both have more rigs than Magic Johnson and Lebron James combined. This does not mean they are better. Phil Jackson has selective memory and is why he has changed his opinion on this subject a few times already. The truth is that is that it is an opinion on who you would want to start your franchise with if you could pick any player from any time. Russell is one of my all time favorites. But he never took over a game on both ends of the floor and was as clutch as Jordan when the game was on the line. That is what a leader does and the rest of the team follows. The Celtics would have still won championships if Russell was not on that team. We saw what happened when Jordan took off those 2 years to give baseball a try. Hands down, Jordan would be my guy.

  • What everyone is overlooking is modern refereeing which allows today’s players to travel and palm the ball much much more than players in the Russell/Cousy era. Jordan, Bryant, James, and other modern stars would have turned the ball over 5-19 more times in each game if the refs used old standards. Yet I can only remember Cousy being called for palming or travelling a very few times, even with the much less lenient calls. Then there is the charging farce. I Jordan, Bryant, and James played back then, they would have fouled out of most of their games. Cousy, Russell, Baylor, Petit, and other stars of yesteryear were honest about not charging and expecting a defensive foul to be called. Conclusion, based on this and watching NBA games since 1952, Russell over Jordan by miles.

  • To compare today’s players with the likes of Wilt, Russell, West, Jabbar is simply ludicrous. The NBA today is not the same one that these players played in. Today’s NBA is all about marketing, traveling, double dribble. Michael was great but by no means the best. The same goes for Lebron. Neither one of them would have been able to do much with the NBA of the past. The rules in those days were changed to give others a chance when competing against the truly greats. Mj and Lebron have not had the same type of effect on the NBA. The only rules changes that have been made them is to allow them to travel, double dribble and charge without a foul being called on them. I would start my team with Wilt!

Leave a Comment

Fill Out All Required Fields

6 − = 1

From SK Network