Bill Russell won 11 championships in the NBA, a feat that still remains unequaled. Honestly, the record might stand for a very long time. Russell was a winner through and through and a role model throughout his illustrious career. It’s everyone’s guess who among the players he played against or watched he looked up to. He answered this in an intimate interview with the player who he considers his favorite.
Bill Russell’s favorite player
In an intimate interview, the winningest player ever in the NBA shared that his favorite player was Tim Duncan. Fans are wondering what makes TD the favorite player of the Boston Celtics legend. After all, Russell played alongside some of the game’s greats, and even after he retired, some players who came after him also established Hall of Fame careers. Some would expect he would mention Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Magic Johnson, or Larry Bird, but Russell revealed what made Duncan stood out in a video published by NBA on its official Youtube channel.
“When Jackie Robinson died, his wife called me and asked me to be a pallbearer at Jackie’s funeral. I said of course, but I asked why? She said you were Jackie’s favorite athlete and that’s the same way I feel about you. Play hard, play smart, and won championships.”
This interview happened decades ago, but Russell held Duncan in such high regard. TD was not even retired at the time of the interview. He proved that he was not finished by winning another title five years after the Russell interview. There are many similarities between the two, which factored in the Hall of Famer’s fondness for The Big Fundamental.
Similarities in Duncan and Russell’s game
Both of them played center and displayed skills that were ahead of their time. Bill Russell was surprisingly quick and agile despite his size. He also delivered on both ends of the court. Some critics claim that Mr 11 Rings dominated in his era simply because there were no other big men at that time who could be considered skilled. However, being consistent for more than a decade takes a lot of focus, determination, and hard work.
On the other hand, Duncan was a master of the basics. He was called ‘The Big Fundamental’ for a reason. TD was not flashy but very efficient and effective. He was the opposite of Kevin Garnett, who dominated his opponents by talking trash to them and breaking them mentally during the game.
Russell and Duncan benefited from a good coach who installed a good system in their team. Russell had All-Star teammates and Red Auerbach, while Tim Duncan had Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, David Robinson, and Kawhi Leonard. The system of Gregg Popovich, employed in San Antonio Spurs, proved to be successful, judging from the five championship rings TD won and the number of former assistant coaches who would go and become a head coach in other NBA teams.
TD and Russell were winners on and off the court, did not get into trouble, and did not make any issues with their coaches or teammates. They played the right way, which probably explains why Russell picked Duncan as his fave player: He reminds him of his younger self.