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Is Bill Russell top 50 player in NBA history?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/6/2013 Category: Sports
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,071 times Debate No: 33349
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (1)
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No. I think bill Russell is extremely overrated. Yes he did win 11 championships and 5 mvps. Bill Russell is the greatest "winner of all time" but he is not anywhere near the talent level needed to be in the top 50 greatest "players" of all time. Bill Russell was on a team with 7 hall of famers. In the middle of there hisotric 8 championship run they had bob cousy, john havilcek, sam jones, tom heinsohn, Clyde Lovellette, Frank Ramsay and russell. on the same team. many critized Miami for putting together Lebron, Wade, and Bosh! 7 HALL OF FAMERS! even without russell there a championship team. Most these were young players not veterans who went to boston to win rings. His offensive ability was really limited, prvoen by the fact that he rebounds more then he scored. Being just as big and athletic as Wilt Chamberlain Russell scoring output should be much higher than the 15.1 that he did average. Russell highest single scoring output is 18.9. Also at his height his field goal percentage should have consistenly been over the 50% mark. yet his career average is 44% and the highest hes got was 46.7%. it speaks to the limited offense he displays. theres no doubting hes a good rebounder and a versatile defender but to be considered one of the top 50 greatest player of all time offense must be a key component. Oljauwon should be on that list not Russell


I first will thank my opponent for this interesting debate. I believe that Bill Russell is a top 50 player in NBA history. I will go ahead and start my arguments.

It is true that Russell played his career with many Hall of Famers who won lots of championships. Cousy won 11 championships, Sam Jones 11 and Havilcek 8 just to name a few. Now this is an argument for me because I want to point out that Russell was called the "Great Winner" and not Cousy, Jones or Havilcek. Although the nickname is not offical, many people, both fans and experts, call Russell the "Great Winner" and acknowledges him as a great player. Now, the question is, why do people give Russell the flattering nickname and not to Cousy, Havilcek and Jones? After all, these players won just as many championships, did the people just chose randomly and got Russell? No. I believe that most people call Russell and not his teammates the "Great Winner" beacuse he was the driving force, at least more so than his teammates, behind the Celtic's success and the large amount of championships.

Offense and Defense:
My opponent said that offense must be there in order to be a top 50 NBA player. Now I do agree, offense is an important part. BUT saying that there the player MUST be a good offensive player, I won't support. Russell was a fine player even if he wasn't an awesome scorer. There is a well-known saying called "Defense wins Championships". It means that defense plays a large part in winning games, which is the object of basketball. Russell was an amazing defender. He wasn't just a verstaile defender, he was one of the best. Saying that a person scores than he rebounds is usally bad. Unless that person has 22.5 rebounds per game. Because Russell has so many rebounds, it is illogical to say that he is not a good scorer. Russell scored 15.1 points per game, no that isn't top 50 material, but paired with great rebounding and great defense? I think he makes it.

Hakeem Olajuwon and Bill Russell
Hakeem Olajuwon scored 21.8 points per game, shooting at .512 percentage. I do realize that his scoring numberz are better than Russell's. But Olajuwon has "only" 11.2 rebounds per game. While he is a good defender, is he really better than Russell? Russell didn't score because his team was filled with talented players that could shoot. Now Olajuwon wasn't blessed with the same quailty of team, but I doubt that is the real problem.
Russell with Olajuwon's team=same rebounds, more points
Olajuwon with Russell's team=same rebounds, less points

Hakeem Olajuwon won the MVP award only once. Russell won it five times. What does this show? That Russell was more valuable to his team and a better player in respective to his league than Olajuwon was. Many people do not rely on MVP awards and believe that they are given to the wrong person. Maybe, but most of the time, the awards are given to the correct player. Think about it. Who votes for the award? Experts in basketball and professional writers. Even if they get it wrong, did they get it wrong all five times for Russell? No. The fact that Russell won far more MVP awards means that he was a better player.
Debate Round No. 1


First of All i want to apologize for saying the Hakeem is not on the list. I didnt look it up myself i listened to a friend of mine who i thought had a high basketball IQ. Turns out Hakeem is on the list, But that does not change the matter that Bill Russell is not a top 50 player in nba history. And Also i will still being arguing the case of way Hakeem Oljauwon is Better than Bill Russell

Its is undeniable that Bill Russell is the driving Force that allowed Boston to win so many championships. But he wouldnt have won so many if it wasnt for his teammates. in the 1965 ECF (Eastern Conference Finals) Game 7 Bill Russell throws an errant pass that could cost Boston the game in the Final Seconds. Hal Greer is to inbound with 5 seconds left and only being down 1 point. John Havlicek makes a clutch steal on the inbounds pass that sent them into the NBA Finals that year. in 1969 against Jerry West's LA Lakers in the 1969 NBA Finals, Sam Jones hits the Game Winner to even the series at 2-2. If not they would have fell 3-1 to LA Lakers heading to Los Angeles to play Game 5 (a Game which the Lakers won). If not for that shot they couldve lost the series. What im Trying to say is that Bill Russell cannot be assesed by the number of championship rings that he has, but needs to be measured by his individual accolades.

Offense and Defense:
My opponent is saying that one does not need to be a good offensive player to be part of THE 50 GREATEST PLAYERS IN NBA HISTORY. Are you kidding me? we are talking about the 50 greatest player to ever grace the hardwood. the 50 most complete and dominant players the league has ever seen. I am not saying Bill Russell Needs to be an offensive dynamo like Wilt to be on this list (remember wilt lead the league in scoring and rebounding and is also an excellent defender) but he needs to have a somewhat consistent offense present in his arsenal. Offense for Russell shouldve been easy in an era where there was no such thing as Basket Interference. yet he shoots a paltry 44% for his career at his size. If he played in now his offense wouldve been worse because back then most the players arent the size there are now. And the "well-known" saying you said is also false because defense alone can never win Championships. Same thing with offense. Offense alone can never win Championships. They need to co-exist like they did in Boston. so is considered one of the 50 greatest ever Bill Russell also needed to have a consistent Offense that can back is excellent defensive and rebounding abilities. Like Bill Russell himself said "This game has always been about buckets." No buckets means no top 50 player.

Hakeem and Russell
Once Again i sincerely apologize for my mistake but there is one thing i would like to argue here. You said that Russell on Olajuwon team would = Same number of rebounds and more points. I highly doubt that. for starters the time when olajuwon played the rules are much different. Basket Interference is Ball Interference not a rebound. Second of all the level of Athleticism in the NBA is at a much higher level during Olajuwon's Era compared to Russells. There is no way in Oljauwons era is Russell averaging 20+ rebounds a game. So what would realistically happen is Russell would rebound at a lesser rate and once his coach notices his offensive struggles, he would urge the GM to find a legitimate scoring option for the team and use Russell solely for defensive and rebounding purposes. But Olajuwon on Russell's team is a different story. If Oljauwon had been on Russell's team Boston would have won 10+ consectutive championships. Ill tell you why. Oljauwon wouldve rebounded at the Same rate Russell did because he is just as tall and athletic as Russell, especially playing in Russells Era because players were a lot smaller. He wouldve scored a lot more, because he was actually Offensively capable and would have bullied his way into the post for easy baskets because of his size. This gives boston a post offensive threat (because Oljauwon is the greatest post player ever with his Dream Shake) combined with the outside sharpshooting of the Boston Guards, Boston wouldve been undefeatable. That saying Oljauwon is also a very capable defender (he ended his career as the all-time block leader by a large margin).

Yes Olajauwon only has one MVP. But winning that award during his era was nearly impossible considering the players that played. Oljauwon was drafted in 84'. Throughout his early career no matter than impact Oljauwon had it was impossible for him to win the award over Larry Bird or Magic Johnson. Then through the prime of his career was also the prime of Michael Jordan's career. This also included many other talented players like David Robinson, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Reggie Miller. It was a tough era filled with an influx of talent. Secondly although Bill Russell won the MVP 5 times only two out of the five times did he make it to the All-NBA First Team. This is because he wasnt the best player in the league, it was just because no one else is more important to his team. ( paragraph 14). This proves that individually Russell is not a great Player but just someone who is vital to the team. Not saying that being the most important on your team is a bad thing, the issue lies with the fact the when addressing the 50 greatest players EVER you have to look at what a player brings to the court individually and in the completeness of his own game, not the impact that he has to his team.


Offense and Defense:
I disagree that Russell's offense was so bad that he can't be on the top 50 all time list. Yeah, offense needs to be there. But saying that a player who doesn't have a great offense can't be in the top 50 is just dumb. The saying which I quoted about defense back in round 1 may not be true, but does carry some weight. Defense is just as important as offense in basketball. And Russell has one of the best defense out there. I'm also not going to say that shooting 44% is "paltry". Is it good? Not really. But Michael Jordan shot .497. Granted, that is 13% better than Russell, but for God's Sake, this is Michael Jordan we're talking about. Is Jordan's defense good? Certainly not as good as Russell's. How many rebounds does Michael Jordan has per game? 6.2., just 27.5% of what Russell has. Russell measures up pretty good against Jordan. So I guess Jordan is also not a top 50 player?

All Those Championships:
Winning a championship does take a team. But Russell made up more of that team than any of his teammate. Think about this:
-Before Bill Russell arrived in Boston, the Celtics already had Cousy, Bill Sharman and other Hall of Famers. They never made the NBA Finals before Russell came.
-In 1962, Russell sat out 4 games and the Celtics lost all of them.
-In 1969, Russell sat out 5 games due to an injury and the Celtics lost all of them!
-When Russell retired after the 1969 season, the Celtics lost 14 more games than last year. They still had Hall of Famers Havlicek, Jo Jo White, Sanders and Howell.
-In the playoffs, Russell grabbed 4,104 rebounds at 24.9 rebounds per game. Those two stats are the highest ever.
So, Russell did play a huge part in the Celtics.
Olajuwon and Russell
Because in the light of new information, I do not think that I must prove that Russell is better than Olajuwon in order to be in the top 50. I do not think that Olajuwon playing with Russell's team would get him more rebounds. Why? My opponent claims that the players in Olajuwon's era are more althletic than the players in Russell's era. Maybe. But we don't totally know how many rebounds Russell would have in Olajuwon's era. I think that Russell can still rebound at around the same rate. After all, Russell was still competing with Elgin Bayor, Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson and Willis Reed. These guys rebound at a better rate than the players in Olajuwon's era. So, when we look at rebounds itself, Russell wins.
So, Russell was very instrumental to the Celtic's success. He was probablary one of the most important player to his team in NBA history. That should easily land Russell on the top 50 all-time list.

Debate Round No. 2


Offense and Defense:
WE ARE TALKING ABOUT THE 50 GREATEST PLAYERS EVER. OFFENSE IF FUNDAMENTAL TO BE PUT IN SUCH A CATERGORY! IT IS A PRESTIGIUOS GROUP WERE ONLY THREE DIMESIONAL PLAYERS NEED TO BE (PLAYERS WHO CAN SCORE, HIGH BASKETBALL IQ ON THE COURT, AND DEFEND). 44% isnt that bad if we were talking about somebody who is a shooter like kobe. These types of players take shots that are like 15-30ft away from the rim. And yes these players do also drive to the basket, but they wouldnt get as many looks in the paint as a Center would. But a Center (like bill russell was) shoots the ball from right beside the rim from the 1-10ft mark. He should be highly effective scoring from there as, you know, EVERY OTHER CENTER IN THE LEAGUE. But yet he shoots only 44% and your saying thats not bad. Let me put into perspective for you how bad this is. For the 2012-2013 NBA season Lebron James shot nearly 70% from inside the paint. Yet Russell who takes all his shots from there cant connect on atleast 50% of them. Then you gone on to say Michael Jordan "only" shot nearly 50% from the floor. Are you kidding me?!? Michael Jordan shoots the ball. Dont get me wrong he can get into the paint at will, but he also shoots the ball from mid-range, and from the three-point line. For someone who was never a great three-point to average nearly 50% field goal percentage the floor is great. Its better than great. Its just unbelievable. If your comparing Michael Jordans rebounding to Bill Russells than your an idiot. Michael Jordan plays shooting guard. Bill Rusell plays Center. It is not Jordans job to get rebounds. that is why he has dennis rodman. Actually Bill Russell is a good comparison with Rodman. If Russell played in the NBA during Jordan's time he would have been another Dennis Rodman. Athletic Big Man who can rebound play good defense but have no offensive game. Jordan's defense as a guard was outstanding. Theres a reason hes defensive player of the year, as a GUARD. not only did he lead the league steals 3 times but he can play some of the best on-ball defense ever. Your an idiot for comparing Russell and Jordan.

All Those "Championships"

The reason Boston hadnt won rings before Russell was because with a lot high offense players there were weak defensively and they need help on the glass. But I'm pretty sure any rebounding-defensive minded center would have made the difference. What im trying to say is that it doesnt have to be Bill Russell. It could have been anybody. If Russell had played on a different team he would defeintely not made it on this list. He probably still would have been a great rebounder and a great defender, but his weakness on offense would have made sure that any other team he would have played for, not win a ring. But if great defense and great rebounding gets you on this list then Dennis Rodman should have been on it too.

Olajuwon and Russell:

it is a fact that Players in Olajuwon's Era were more athletic. Ask any true NBA fan. Go look it up for christ sakes. Everybody knows 80's and 90's were the hardest era in basketball. Considering the talent level of the players. Considering rules like Basket Intereference (which wasnt there when Russell played) and handchecking. The physicality of the game was at another level. Some of the hardest fouls you'll see in the current NBA were even fouls back in the 90s. There is no question Olajuwon's Era was tougher. Also during the 80' and 90's the game was dominated by Big Men. Russell Era is more offensively-minded relying on quick guards to do most of the scoring. So Russell with his lackadaisical offense verus a Era were the NBA was big men Domainated? He defeintely would not be rebouding at the same rate. Common Sense. More people guys the Same Size, just as athelticly gifted as him, playing at the same time, would have ment Russell not rebounding at the Same rate.
Also you said Rebounding alone russell wins. Rebouning Alone doesnt get you into the top 50 of all time. Rebounding alone doesnt make Russell a better player than Olajuwon. To be considered one must have a complete dominance to every facet of the game.

Therefore Russell May have been Instrumental to Boston Winning Most of there Championships. But you have to realise it was a weak Era, some experts consider it the weakest Era in league history. Also There wasnt as many teams to challenge the Celtics.. During his Era the NBA was relatively new. Unlike Olajuwon's Era. Most NBA teams were already formed at the time when olajuwon played. The 80's and 90's are the unanimous decision for the toughest Era in NBA history. If the list was called "The Top 50 Most Important Players to a Team" then cool Russell would be number 1. But this is "The Top 50 Greatest Players of All Time List" as in individuals, and if you cant perform individually you cant be on this list.


All, right then it is my turn for the final round

Michael Jordan:
My opponent claims that I'm an "idiot" for comparing Jordan to Russell. Maybe it seems a little silly, but I don't think that my opponent got the correct reasons. After all, my opponent says that "Michael Jordan plays shooting guard. Bill Rusell plays Center." What my opponent is implying is that a person can't compare two players of diiferent postions. My opponent then states that Jordan has far better shooting skills then Russell but dismisses the fact that Russell has better rebounding skills not because he is talented but due to playing center. Doesn't this seem absurd? Well, yeah Russell does have more rebounds because he is a center, but my opponent forgot to metion that Jordan has more points because he is a shooting guard. Michael Jordan's job is not to grab rebounds. Well, Russell's job wasn't to score points. So, when you compare the players, they match up pretty good. Besides, Russell doesn't have to be better than Jordan in order to be in the top 50 all time list. Jordan is a top 5 player. If my opponent wants to argue that Jordan isn't top 5 in order to bump Russell out, he can go ahead and do that.

Most Valuable or the Best?:
My opponent has repeatedly said that valuable does not equal best. I respectfully disagree. In order to answer this question, we must ask ourselves two other ones:
1) What stat best determinesbest?
2) What are you trying to be best at?
Lets answer question 2 first. The game we are trying to be best at is basketball. Now, what is the point of the game?


So, in order to be best, the player must be the best to achieve that goal. Russell won 11 championships. He won 5 MVPS. He helped far more than any other player in NBA history. To throw that away is foolish. It is also false to say the Celtics would have won without Russell. As I pointed out last round, the Celtics without Russell crumbled. Also, my opponent did not state what he/she meant by top 50 Player all-time. He/she just assumed that I would go along with it. Can't do that, there are rules. So, which stat is the most important? Whatever stat is more useful in order to win.

Defense and Rebounding:
My opponent has repeatedly said that:
1) Rebouning Alone doesnt get you into the top 50 of all time.
2) To be considered one must have a complete dominance to every facet of the game.
*Note: these are compelety my opponent words, grammar and spelling mistakes are not my fault.

I kinda agree that statement 1 is true, I totally disagree with statement 2. In order to be in the top 50, the player MUST have great stats in every caterogy. Let me ask you something, who is the best baseball player ever? Most people say Babe Ruth. Was Ruth a great defensive player? No. He sucked at defense. Yet, he is considered the greatest player ever in baseball. If you are confused why I am metioning baseball, I am simply finding examples in which a great player can have terrible stats ina caterogy and still be dominant. How many players have great stats in EVERY CATEROGY? Surely not 50. I would say 3. 5, if you disagree what 'great' means. Not 50. I doubt that there are 50 players in any sport that have GREAT stats in every caterogy. For statement 1, there are exceptions. If the guy has 60 rebounds(hey, it is possible), can he be in the top 50 all time? Unless he has like 30 turnovers or something else as horrific, yeah, he can be in the top 50. Now, I believe that in basketball, defense is just as important as offense. This is why. Basketball is a zero sum game. For every positive, there is a negative. For every win a team has, an extra loss another team has. A point saved is just as important as a point scored. So, defense is just as important as offense. Russell has one of the greatest defense ever. His offense is not great, I admit. But his defense is more than enough. His defense and offense combined is pretty good. I feel that rebounding is a third kind of skill. In a sense, it is bascially "special teams" if you want to compare it to football. In that case, Russell has one of the best special teams ever. Even if his defense+offense isn't good enough for top 50 all time, his rebounds are going to push him there. "Easiest Era Ever"My opponent has pointed out that Russell has played in one of the weakest era ever. He also wrote that " it is a fact that Players in Olajuwon's Era were more athletic. Ask any true NBA fan. Go look it up for christ sakes. Everybody knows 80's and 90's were the hardest era in basketball." Ok. Go get an interview with a "true NBA fan" and get his opinon. Go look it up, he/she said. Okay, can you help me with some websites? Oh, no you can't because THERE ARE NO SOURCES! My opponent claims that Olajuwon's league was harder. How? More athletic. All right then, how does my opponent prove that Olajuwon's era is harder? My opponent says that Olajuwon's era has Ewing, Jordan, Robinson and Malone, Barkley, a little bit of Magic and Bird, and Miller. Well, Russell played against Elgin Bayor, Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson and Willis Reed. They are also a formidable group. Russell's competitors had great offense and great rebounding skills. Either way, listing the top players do not totally determine the level of play of the era. In order to correctly do so, we have to look at the WHOLE league. My opponent did not do that and has no proof that Olajuwon's era was harder than Russell's era. My opponent's lack of sourecs andexperts with no names seems to convey that it is not a "fact" that Olajuwon's era was harder, but rather an opinon.
The player's rebounds per game+points per game:
Olajuwon's era: Russell's era:
Michael Jordan 36.3 Wilt Chamberlain 53.0
Patrick Ewing 32.3 Willis Reed 31.6
David Robinson 31.7 Elgin Bayor 40.9
Charles Barkely 33.8 Oscar Robertson 33.2
Karl Malone 35.1
Reggie Miller 21.2

So, in conclusion, Russell is a top 50 all time basketball player because he focused on what he need to do in order to win. Many people described Russell as an intense player with a strong will and a hunger to win. His incredible defensive and rebounding skills should easily land him on the all time top 50 list. Russell was an effective team player that allowed the celtics to build their dynasty. Without him, there would have been no Celtic's dynasty.

Thank You and please vote for me.
Debate Round No. 3
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by deever 5 years ago
Well, I am disappointed that this debate received so little attention and ended up with no votes. It was a fine debate and you had good arguments.
No votes have been placed for this debate.