When Phil Jackson was promoting ‘Eleven Rings’, he controversially picked Bill Russell over Michael Jordan as his first pick in an all-time draft.
Phil Jackson played in the NBA for a good 12 years before moving on to coaching. He faced the likes of Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton and Julius Erving at their peak. He understands NBA greats and greatness like few other people do.
Jackson won 2 championships while playing for the New York Knicks. He then won 6 more as coach of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Shaquille O’Neal helped him win 3 more on the trot, while Kobe Bryant led his Lakers team to a repeat. With 13 championships to his name, the Zen Master stands in rarefied territory.
The most successful head coach in NBA history would of course place success at the forefront of his priorities while picking players.
Phil Jackson picks Bill Russell over Michael Jordan, explains why
In an interview with Time magazine while promoting his book, Eleven Rings, Jackson was asked who he’d pick first in an all-time draft. His answer might surprise some people, but definitely sits right logically:
“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 says he’d build his team around Bill Russell before Michael Jordan. hbu?
RT for Jordan
Fav for Russell pic.twitter.com/1yRH89GP4Q
— Basketball Creed (@basketballcreed) May 25, 2013
The real argument for Michael Jordan as the GOAT isn’t built solely around his team success. Or, as a matter of fact, even his individual success. Real players and ballers understand the impact Michael Jordan had on the NBA stylistically.
Jordan dominated as a guard during the most physical era of the NBA, when big men were considered franchise centerpieces. Jordan, Steph and Kobe are the only 3 players to have won both the MVP and the Finals MVP as guards. The latter two wouldn’t have done so without the influence of the former.