When it comes to the NBA’s GOAT, there always seems to be a certain Boston Celtics player who is left out of the conversation. Michael Jordan and LeBron James are always at the top of the list, but there’s much more to NBA all-time greats than those two. Why is Bill Russell hardly mentioned when it comes to the NBA’s GOAT?
Michael Jordan and LeBron James always lead the way
Strike up a conversation about the NBA’s GOAT and the first two names you’ll likely hear are Michael Jordan and LeBron James. Jordan and James are certainly two of the best to ever play the game and have combined for 10 NBA titles. The two have also racked up a combined nine MVPs.
Jordan was the talk of the NBA in the late 1980s and 1990s. He was the face of the NBA when he helped the Chicago Bulls earn a pair of three-peats. Jordan is a 10-time scoring champion and took home MVP honors five times. In all six of the Bulls’ championships, Jordan was named the NBA Finals MVP. He averaged 30.1 points per game over his 15-year career.
James is still going strong in his 18th year in the NBA. At age 36, he’s averaging 25.7 points per game and is coming off his fourth NBA title. He’s been named All-NBA 16 times and is a four-time MVP. Last season, James led the league in assists at 10.2 per game, proving he’s much more than just a scorer.
What makes someone the GOAT?
The GOAT topic can be found in all sports, but what exactly makes someone the greatest of all time in their respective sport? Can someone be the GOAT and not even be the best player on the field or on the court? How much does it have to do with athletic ability? How heavily is winning weighed? The GOAT topic gets thrown around quite often, but the criteria is never quite clear.
Tom Brady is widely considered the GOAT of the NFL. Why? He’s not the biggest, fastest, or strongest quarterback in the league. He’s not nearly as gifted as some of the players on the field with him. Brady, however, has put together the greatest resume in the NFL.
Brady has won seven Super Bowl titles. He cemented his legacy as the game’s best-ever by winning his seventh ring in his first year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Is that what puts him over the top?
Why isn’t Bill Russell ever seriously mentioned as the GOAT?
If Tom Brady’s resume is what puts him over the edge as the NFL’s GOAT, former Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell needs to get much more consideration as the GOAT of the NBA. Sure, Russell wasn’t as flashy or as high-scoring as Michael Jordan and LeBron James but he’s as flashy as Brady is as a quarterback.
Russell was a dominant rebounder, leading the league in that department for five years. Although he wasn’t a dominant scorer, he averaged 15.1 points per game in his 13-year career. Twice, he averaged better than 18 points in a season. As a rebounder, he averaged 22.5 per game in his career.
In his 13 years in the NBA, Russell finished with 11 championships. Russell was also a 12-time NBA All-Star and he finished with five MVPs. There aren’t many, if any at all, with a better NBA resume.
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.