Bill Russell’s passing has shaken the entire NBA. Russell was notorious for his legendary work on and off the basketball court; it’s clear that the world would be worse without his contributions. Russell won at a rate that hasn’t been replicated and helped usher many new changes to the world through his activism and reform, ensuring his mark on the world is felt forever.
Bill Russell discussed his top 6 NBA players of all time without including himself or Wilt Chamberlain
Russell is widely regarded as one of the best basketball players of all time, which isn’t surprising. He’s one of the greatest rebounders in the history of the NBA, and he changed how defense was played during his illustrious 13-year career with the Boston Celtics. Russell helped the C’s win 11 championships during his career, and without him, the storied history of one of the greatest NBA franchises looks quite different.
Bill is on many fans’ top NBA players of all-time lists, but what does his list look like? Russell was posed the question in 1997 alongside his close friend and rival Wilt Chamberlain, but it came with a catch; he couldn’t include himself or Chamberlain. That certainly impacted Russell’s list and resulted in him naming seven players rather than six.
Who does Bill Russell believe are the top NBA players of all time?
Russell’s list included Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Elgin Baylor, Oscar Robertson, and either Hakeem Olajuwon or Bob Pettit. It was certainly an interesting list, especially considering it is now 25 years old, but it does stand well given the test of time.
Johnson and Jordan are both still popular choices today, given their individual achievements and winning pedigree. Bird is widely regarded as a top 10 player, but he has probably fallen down some lists due to new names like LeBron James edging their way onto the scene. Robertson is also included from time to time, but he’s often forgotten about, which is unfortunate considering how good of a player he was.
Baylor, Olajuwon, and Pettit are all a bit more interesting choices. All specialized as skilled scorers who could rebound the ball, similar to Russel. All these guys are great, but it’s rare to see them get mentioned among the top five or six players in the history of the NBA.
It’s also worth noting that had he been able to do so, Russell probably would have included himself and Chamberlain on his list. Russell asked if he could include Chamberlain before answering and was told no, and chances are that had he been presented with the choice, he would have taken himself over any guy on this list.
Overall, Russell’s list still stands strong. It’s a bit outdated, given that it’s 25 years old by now, but that doesn’t make it a bad list. It's a good reminder of great players that were lost to the sands of time, like Baylor and Pettit, who definitely don't get talked about nearly enough.