It’s hard to compare eras and players who played in different times throughout NBA history. Numerous factors need to be included in the equation. Even though these types of debates are quite popular, it’s impossible to determine how individual players would perform in a different era. Something that everybody seems to agree upon is the fact that great players would be great and productive no matter which period they play in.
Former NBA player and legend Oscar Robertson talked about these things in his book ‘My Life, MyTimes, My Game.’ Robertson was one of the NBA’s best players throughout the ’60s and the first part of the ’70s. During his time in the NBA, Bill Russell was the biggest winner with the Boston Celtics and is still, to this day, the most accomplished player in NBA history. On top of that, he was an intelligent defender capable of imposing his will on the opposing players like few others ever could.
In his book, Robertson shares his thoughts on how a matchup between Shaquille O’Neal and Bill Russell would look like if they had the opportunity to square off. Robertson believes Shaq is one of the best and most dominant players in NBA history, which would give Russell a lot of problems in the paint. Despite, all that Robertson thinks Russell would have his chance because of his incredible basketball IQ and the fact he is exceptionally long, which would enable him to slow down Shaq.
Shaquille O’Neal is one of the greatest players of all-time. He’s big, strong, and fast. Shaq’s go-to shot is a dunk. There is no doubt he would’ve gotten his share of dunks against Bill Russell. There were times he’d get position close to the basket, and there’s nothing anyone could do about that. Bill was 6’9”, and he had long enough arms where he might have been able to front Shaq. He might have been able to deny him the ball from the side. He was smart enough and competitive enough that he could have played against him. Bill could exploit anything, make you rely on the weakest parts of your game. Shaq doesn’t have much of a jumper. He had a jump hook but doesn’t have the kind of full hook that would be unstoppable.Oscar Robertson, via My Life, My Times, My Game
Apart from Bill Russell, Robertson faced Wilt Chamberlain on multiple occasions and believed if Shaq were guarding Wilt, he would have severe problems defending him. Wilt was a freak of nature, and is probably the best pure athlete the league has ever seen, despite the fact Shaq also falls in this category.
And on the other end of the court, I doubt that Shaq could have defended Wilt Chamberlain.Oscar Robertson, via My Life, My Times, My Game
Even though it’s impossible to know how Shaq and Russell would fare against each other, Robertson gave a pretty good analysis of the two players and their advantages. When a former great player who saw multiple generations of players in his lifetime, breaks it down like Robertson does, it kind of answers the questions which player would win in that matchup. There is no doubt Shaq would get his points, rebounds, and dunks on Russell, but if there is one player that would figure out a way to stop him, it’s definitely the great Bill Russell.