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”If there were 12 teams you wouldn't win a championship” — when Bill Russell's shot down Michael Jordan's trash talk

Like many others, Jordan thought it was easier to win in the '60s, and Russell gave a very valid argument against that narrative.
Michael Jordan and Bill Russell

Michael Jordan and Bill Russell

Last night, on July 31st, 2022, Bill Russell passed away at the age of 88. In honor of Russ and his mind-blowing 11 rings, we bring you our favorite 11 stories published over the years. From fun facts and anecdotes to historical moments on and off the court, they encapsulate the man, the myth, the legend - Bill Russell. 

The ultimate winners in the game of basketball have to be Michael Jordan and Bill Russell. Both players had a significant number of individual and team achievements, and their influence in their respective eras shaped the world around them. That impact wasn't solely related to basketball but culture, and they established themselves as true icons. Russell and Jordan broke barriers that weren't thought to be possible and transcended into true NBA legends.

Ultimate competitors

Apart from being great athletes, Jordan and Russell had tremendous basketball IQ, which enabled them to be two steps in front of everyone in almost any situation. Their competitive nature was an essential aspect of their game, and casual trash talking is a big part of that. Bill Russell remembers when Michael Jordan told him that he would break his championship records while playing golf on a beautiful afternoon.

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"I think he is a great player and I have the ultimate regard for him. One time we were in the middle of a golf course after they have just won a championship and he said they will go for my record. And I asked him which one? You know we won 11, but we won 8 straight. I told him I don't think he will live long enough to get either of those."

Bill Russell

Russell played in a very different era from Jordan's, which is a topic Jordan raised during their conversation. Like many others, Jordan thought it was easier to win in the '60s, and Russell gave a very valid argument against that belief.

"Think about it this way. When I was a rookie there were 80 jobs in professional basketball so a lot of good players didn't make it. I said if there were 12 teams you wouldn't win a championship. Because you did a great job penetrating and you dished out to Paxson and he hit the open shot which won the game. If there were 12 teams in the league, he wouldn't make that shot because he would be up in the stands. And that is not a knock on him but it's about the quality of the NBA."

Bill Russell

Comparing eras

It's hard to have these types of debates on who had a tougher time playing in the NBA since we all know it's impossible to compare eras. However, it's impressive how Russell dominated the league with the Celtics for over a decade. On the other hand, Jordan took the game on another level regarding its global popularity while having individual and team success. They are both true legends of the NBA, and there is no question they made their impact on the game we know today.

Kaith Van Horn

“I think he was pretty satisfied with what he had” – Keith Van Horn could have been a great player but chose not to become one

Based on Byron Scott’s description, Keith had what it takes and he often “worked hard” during team practices and gym workouts. However, he “never went the extra mile.”

American actor Ben Stiller

“I’ll be in my mid-60s by the time this team rebuilds” - Ben Stiller on being a New York Knicks fan

Stiller summed up the experience of being a Knicks fan: “Who would want this pain? Who would want to feel that frustration?”

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James and Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan

The difference between Michael Jordan's and LeBron James' diet and workout regime

Michael Jordan and LeBron James' diets are similar to each other but the way they recover and workout is different.

Boston Celtics forward Larry Bird

"Score meant very little, but a lot of talking going on, a lot of fun." - Larry Bird learned trash-talking from black men working at a local hotel

In the process, Bird developed a genuine off-the-court relationship with most of them, particularly a guy whom he called “Slim.”

Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant

Brian Windhorst on Kevin Durant potentially holding out — “I can see it. That’s what we’re headed towards”

Several recent developments turned Durant's potential holdout from unlikely to very possible.

Brandon Jennings

Brandon Jennings goes off on the state of the NBA - “It’s only a couple of guys in the NBA that love the game”

Jennings' opinions are certainly divisive, but it's clear that without change the NBA would get stale, and that's why it's necessary to continue exploring ways to evolve the game