If Phil Jackson could have any player to start a team it would be… Bill Russell

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It’s all about the rings.

For Phil Jackson — out promoting his book “Eleven Rings” — it’s always been about the hardware. It’s about building a real team around the stars he was given, about managing the egos, about having a team that didn’t seem fazed by the biggest stages.

So when Time Magazine asked him who he would want, of all the players in NBA history, to build a team around, he of course went with… Bill Russell. Not the guy with the statue in front of the United Center, not the guy who will have one in front of Staples Center someday. No, it’s the guy who had trouble getting a statue in Boston.

“In my estimation, the guy that has to be there would be Bill Russell. He has won 11 championships as a player,” Jackson said. “That’s really the idea of what excellence is, when you win championships.”

Russell was the anchor around which the dominant Celtics teams of the 1960s was built around — he was a defensive force who could score more than people remember. Russell was an 11-time champion, a five-time MVP and a 12-time All-Star.

To me Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar get shortchanged in the “GOAT” conversation. Because they are tall (even for NBA players) we seem to discount what they did, we don’t relate to them like we do Michael Jordan. Basketball is supposed to be easy for the tall, but that’s different than being tall and very skilled and smart.

But if you want to argue with Phil Jackson, you go ahead. Stack your credentials up against his and make your case.

Hat tip to The Point Forward. Here is the full Time interview with Jackson, which is very good.