In the eyes of the majority of the NBA world, Michael Jordan is the undisputed greatest basketball player of all time. But not for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who feels that title belongs to the ultimate champion and Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell.
« People who didn’t see Bill Russell play have no idea. He stifled the whole league for 11 world championships. Michael Jordan had six. There’s no comparison. People don’t understand what’s being compared. That’s why they get it wrong, » Kareem explained.
Rings don’t lie
A few years ago, while appearing on The Dan Patrick Show, Kareem shared his view on the GOAT debate and explained why he feels people only put MJ at the top of that list due to not being knowledgeable of NBA history and what Russell did back in the 60s’.
11 rings for sure are more than six, and the impact Bill had on those championship Celtics teams is immeasurable. Kareem was a young buck seeing that unfold, and that obviously stitched in his memory, as it frustrates him that the legendary center doesn’t get enough respect compared to Jordan.
Why do people prefer Michael over Russell?
Well, the answer is pretty simple. The NBA back in those days wasn’t simply filled with the number of teams and talented players compared to the 90s’ when Jordan dominated. The NBA was in its early days, and the Celtis and Russell simply took the ropes and ran the thing for over a decade.
Also, being a defensive monster rather than a scorer that put up flashy numbers ( 15.1 ppg and 22.5 rpg for his career) made Russell, not the most popular name, and that definitely plays a part in the GOAT debate.
On the other side, Jordan took off when the NBA started becoming a global brand, becoming one of the most notorious people in the world and still maintaining that status. That is the simplest reason why 90% of people in the world will always think of MJ first when talking about basketball or the GOAT debate in particular.
But the humble Kareem, rather than advocating for himself, always makes sure to remind us the first legends of the game were just as good as the ones that came later.