Phil Jackson has seen a lot during his time in the NBA. When accounting for his time as both a player and a coach, Jackson's career spanned 40-plus years and saw him work with countless players along the way. Jackson is one of the most outstanding winners in the history of the sport, as he has won a total of 13 championships during his time as a player and a coach.
Jackson would build his dream team around Bill Russell
Along the way, Jackson worked with some of the greatest players in the game, such as Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. That helped Jackson build his reputation as a standout coach, but managing those big egos can be more challenging than it looks, and Jackson knew how to get the best out of every one of his players at his disposal.
You could build a dream team with the players Jackson has coached during his time with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. But when presented with the opportunity to build his dream team from scratch, Jackson didn't choose a player he had coached during his career.
Rather than picking a player like Jordan or Bryant, who he had already worked with, Jackson said he would choose Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell as the one to build his dream team around, which was a fairly shocking response.
"In my estimation, the guy that has to be there would be Bill Russell. He has won 11 championships as a player. That's really the idea of what excellence is, when you win championships."
Phil Jackson, ESPN
Phil's reasoning for picking Bill Russell makes sense
Jackson's justification for picking Russell is pretty straightforward; Russell is the best winner when it comes to players in the NBA. Jackson is the best winner when it comes to coaches in the NBA. Combining the two would result in winning, to say the least.
It's fair to note that Jordan and Bryant did their winning with Jackson in more difficult times in NBA history, but that doesn't take away from Russell's accomplishments. Russell dominated the NBA during his 13-season career and helped revolutionize the game. Without him, there isn't a Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant to speak of.
It is surprising to see Jackson not choose someone he works with, but his reasoning for selecting Russell makes a lot of sense. There wasn't a better winner in the NBA than Russell, and if you want to build a dream team to lead you to titles, Russell is your guy. Jackson recognizes this and makes a pick that few folks would make when filling out their dream teams.