Michael Jordan Was Once on the Receiving End of Some Biting Trash Talk from Bill Russell

When it comes to all things basketball, Michael Jordan is usually considered the top dog. In a few key areas, though, Bill Russell has him beat. The Boston Celtics legend won an incredible 11 championships, with eight of those coming in consecutive campaigns. Even His Airness couldn’t match that feat.

Russell, it seems, could also hold his own in the trash-talking department. During one round of golf with MJ, the center made sure to let his younger counterpart know that he could never touch his NBA resume.

Bill Russell once hit Michael Jordan with the ‘rings’ argument during a round of golf

Michael Jordan (R) receives the NBA MVP trophy from Bill Russell (L).
Bill Russell hands Michael Jordan the NBA Most Valuable Player Trophy in 1998| Jeff Haynes/AFP via Getty Images

When basketball fans try to compare a modern player (let’s say LeBron James) to Michael Jordan, each player’s respective number of championship rings will usually come up pretty quickly. During a round of golf with Bill Russell, however, MJ found himself on the other side of the argument.

While the Celtics star wasn’t always a natural golfer, he eventually honed his craft and took his competitive fire to the links. On at least one occasion, he took the course with Jordan and unleashed a bit of trash talk.

“Later on, Russell played in several pro-ams, including the PGA Tour’s annual stop at Pebble Beach, and occasionally with avid golfer Michael Jordan. One such round during Jordan and the Bulls’ heyday produced one of the best smack-talk stories – and making the tale even better, Jordan, for once, was on the receiving end,” Brentley Romine explained on Golf.com.

Russell’s version of events is as follows:

“I think he is a great player, and I have the ultimate regard for him. We were out in the middle of the golf course; they had just won the championship. He says, ‘You know we’re going to go after your record.’ I said, ‘Which one?’ … You know, we won 11, but we won eight straight. I don’t think you’ll live long enough to get either one of those.”

Bill Russell, via Golf.com

While that line might not have the punch of some other pieces of legendary trash talk — think Scottie Pippen telling Karl Malone that he wouldn’t deliver on Sunday — Russell does earn some points for being right. Jordan, for all of his dominance, only won six championships; even if you wanted to generously ignore his time in minor league baseball and argue that he didn’t lose any NBA Finals during his streak, that would still leave him short of the legendary Celtics center.

Based on everything we know of His Airness, he probably took that barb a bit personally. Based on Russell’s resume, though, Jordan simply had to grin and bear it.

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