Skip to main content

Bill Russell once explained how he would defend Shaquille O'Neal: "He has to carry that weight up and down!"

The biggest champion in NBA history shared some wisdom.
Bill Russell and Shaquille O'Neal

Bill Russell and Shaquille O'Neal

The recent passing of the legendary Bill Russell really made the whole NBA world reflect on his incredible basketball legacy and personal life. Although he was already considered one of the greatest players ever, looking at his accolades, awards, rings, impact, and everything around him, the in-depth look at Russell's career helped people realize he was a transcendent player that could have dominated in any era, and even stopped some of the stars that came after him.

Battle of giants

When talking about some of the most dominant and physically imposing players in NBA history, you have to put Shaquille O'Neal's name at the top of that list. In his prime, Shaq's 7'1'' and 315-pound frame presented an unstoppable challenge for any big man in the game, and you could argue no other center in NBA history could have gone toe to toe with the "Big Aristotel."

When it came to trying to overpower or clash bodies with O'Neal, nobody can come to mind that could really hang on. You had to think outside of the box to contain Shaq. Most coaches and players from Shaq's era relied on hacking him and sending him to the free-throw line, where O'Neal would regularly struggle.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

But it wasn't a sustainable tactic as your team would get into foul trouble or maybe even have a day in which Shaq was simply knocking him down. So how do you stop him or at least try to contain him? Well, back in 1997, Bill Russell offered his opinion.

In a dual interview alongside his rival Wilt Chamberlain with Ahmad Rashad, the tremendous defensive mind he was, Bill would explain how he would strategically take on guarding O'Neal:

"I would make him play hard zone, plus I would make him have to run up and down the court all day. If I weigh 240 and he weighs 300, he has to carry that weight up and down every time, the fatigue factor becomes part of it." Bill Russell explained to Ahmad.

Russell knew that he didn't have a chance when it came to going toe to toe physically. But instead, Bill would rely on his speed, mobility, and stamina to carry him through the game. Outrunning and getting Shaq exhausted would be the best chance to prevail, as the sheer 100-pound difference in the weight of these two centers plays too much of a role.

But with a good team concept and Russell using his strengths to attack Shaq's weakness, you could see the legendary Celtics find a way to contain "The Big Diesel." After all, he is not an 11x champion for nothing. If he could give hell to Wilt Chamberlain for years, Shaq would also be a winnable challenge for Russell.

Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler during media day

Is Jimmy Butler the ultimate troll or a business guru?

With Jimmy Butler moving towards the latter half of his career, it seems that he wants to start building his off-court brand.

Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan on Oprah Show

“He never understand what it takes to be a winner” — When Michael Jordan humiliated Charles Barkley on Oprah

It’s hard to tell if Jordan took Barkley’s joke personally, but what he said next changed the vibe and the entire atmosphere in a few seconds.

Chicago Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan

"I don't think I could truly be happy until I retire" - DeMar DeRozan pulls the curtain back on daily rigors of NBA life

There's one thing Chicago Bulls star DeMar DeRozan is looking forward to the most when he hangs up his sneakers for good.

Venus Williams and Shaquille O'Neal

When Shaquille O'Neal lied about having affairs with Venus Williams, Cindy Crawford, and Aaliyah

Venus Williams issued a strong statement upon hearing Shaquille O'Neal's claims.

Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan is defended by Detroit Pistons center James Edwards

“The Bulls complained all the time” — Kevin McHale reveals why the Detroit “Bad Boys” Pistons hated the Chicago Bulls

Unlike Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, Kevin McHale believes the physicality the Bad Boy Pistons played with was valid and it made his Celtics even better.

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant and guard Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook still does the same offseason workout he and Kevin Durant used to do in OKC — “It definitely helps”

Russell Westbrook revealed that he has been running on sand dunes for about eight years now every offseason and it has been helping him a lot.

New Orleans Hornets center Chris Kaman

How Chris Kaman got Player Exclusive "Air Sasqhatuces" from Nike in 2012

After he became an All-Star in 2010, Chris Kaman triggered a clause in his Nike deal that he’d get Player Exclusives