NBA Power Rankings: The 11 Greatest Players in NBA History

Kwame Fisher-Jones@@joneskwameContributor IIIApril 15, 2012

NBA Power Rankings: The 11 Greatest Players in NBA History

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    It is the conversations no media pundit or analyst wants to have publicly for fear of the backlash and personal attacks. Yet, the question itself is as innocent as there is in sports; “Who is the best player in NBA history?” The answer, regardless of who you are, is sure to include one of the following individuals: Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell or Wilt Chamberlain.

    The question is not who are the participants in the “Best Ever” conversation, but rather the order in which they rank. While ranking a player is always about preference and then performance, the
    consistency in which QUALIFIED minds agree with you is what gives credence to your rankings.

    No thing and no one in life is perfect, which makes it virtually impossible to have an undisputed greatest of all time. Who was the best at the particular facet of the game on which you place the highest importance will always place higher than those who struggled in that area. For instance, if you believe scoring and gaudy numbers reign supreme, then Wilt and Jordan will certainly rank higher than Magic and Russell.

    However, it is the compilation of skills that made these 11 superior. It was their perfect blend of skill and desire that made them the game’s best.

    Championships, while well-deserved, are never a true gauge of greatness. Robert Horry and Jack Haley enjoy the spoils of victory, but are not the victors of, say, LeBron James or Karl Malone. This is a list for sustained individual greatness, with "sustained" being the key cog.

    While a championship provides a moment of immortality, it is a singular moment of achievement that can simply interrupt consistent complacency.

    A career’s worth of dominance, a complete repertoire, on-the-court leadership and impact on the game are the four factors considered. This is a simple formula for quite possibly the most complex of topics.

    Many of the game’s transcendent fighters will be omitted from this list but are worthy of mentioning here. The omittance of Shaquille O’Neal, Moses Malone, Bob Pettit, Rick Barry, Isiah Thomas, David
    Robinson and Jerry West is more about the minuscule deficiencies in their games than disrespect for their talent level. These differences, minuet in the symphony of an NBA career, were monumental in the creation of this classical piece.   

    While the subject matter is written with confidence, there is no wrong answer to this question. The answer, no matter how emphatically it is stated, is based on a personal preference disguised in the form of exact science. 


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11) Tim Duncan: Power Forward, 1996-Present

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    “The time when there is no one there to feel sorry for you or to cheer for you is when a player is made.” - Tim Duncan, Four-Time NBA Champion

    Given the title of the “Big Fundamental,” Tim Duncan is the best power forward in the history of the NBA. There are statistics that substantiate such a statement, yet Duncan’s greatness is not fully explained through numbers. Duncan’s ability to make fans expect the exceptional is what separates him from his fellow NBAers.

    The San Antonio Spurs have made the playoffs every single year Tim Duncan has been on the club. The incomparable forward has led the Spurs to 14 straight playoff appearances, 11 of those seasons the Spurs made it to at least the second round, and four of those seasons have ended with championship rings being distributed.

    This remarkable run has been recognized by few and celebrated by even fewer, which is fine for Duncan.

    If the NBA rules did not dictate that every team be broadcast, one has to wonder if the Spurs games would even be televised. Duncan’s Groundhog Day game is so taken for granted you have to look for his face on the Spurs website. The team appears more pressed about promoting the likes of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli or Wile E. Coyote than paying homage to their most tested warrior.

    The spotlight many players bask in is the very same spotlight many players burn in. Timmy’s avoidance of the spotlight is a testament to him as a player and his simple desire to just be a champion. Ignorance is often a choice and we as fans have chosen ignorance from time to time when we forget to mention Timmy’s name when discussing the game’s elite.

    It is a choice we should no longer make.

    Whether it is 33 points, 16 rebounds and two blocks in his first ever NBA Finals appearances or 21 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists and eight blocks in a championship-clinching Game 6 of the 2002-2003 NBA Finals, Duncan never disappoints.

    In today’s media coverage of players, numbers are used for the blind, when they fail to identify greatness. Duncan’s regular season averages of 20 points, 10 rebounds, and two blocks per can be mistaken for simplistic.

    After 14 years, Duncan has made the difficult seem simplistic, and that is reconfirmation of his greatness.

10) Oscar Robertson: Point Guard, 1960-1974

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    "He is so great he scares me." – Celtics legendary Head Coach Red Auerbach

    Oscar Robertson is an Olympian, a three-time College Player of the Year, a 12-time NBA All-Star, an NBA MVP and NBA champion. The Big O’s resume is impeccable, and his achievement unquestioned.

    The only player to average a triple-double in NBA history only tells part of Robertson’s dominance. Compared to other great guards in NBA history, Robertson was not flashy. The point guard was patient and defiant. In his first five seasons in the league, Robertson averaged 30.2 points, 10.3 rebounds and 10.6 assists.

    What makes these numbers so astonishing is the era in which Robertson shined.

    Cincinnati has never been the most racially tolerant city; during Robertson's time there, the city experienced race riots and even today it still has this stigma of racism. As of January 2011, Cincinnati ranked 46th out of 50 in a poll measuring racial tolerance.

    It has been over 50 years since Robertson starred for the city of Cincinnati. His linear focus during the most trying of times was remarkable.

    It is easy to paint the picture of hate that Robertson played in, but it is more gratifying to relive the magnificent moments he created.

    For instance, in just his second season in the league, Robertson broke the then-single-season assist record; he was the first and only guard in league history to lead his team in rebounding; first and only player to have over 900 rebounds and 900 assists in one season and is the NBA’s all-time leader in career triple-doubles with 181.

    The Big O’s game was rough and deliberate; there was nothing flashy about the guard’s game. However, he was a perfect blend of competitive fire and flawless fundamentals and just happened to be unintentionally great.

9) Elgin Baylor: Small Forward, 1959-1972

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    “I hear people talking about forwards today and I haven't seen many that can compare with him." – Jerry West, NBA Hall of Famer      

    Every player has a unique story that emphasizes just how superior their talents were to that of the competition. Some tales range from a player switching teams in practice or just not practicing at all and, in both instances, still managing to be forces in the games.

    For Elgin Baylor, his tale is a little more serious, but reflective nonetheless.

    The 1961-1962 season would see Baylor, who was an United States Army Reservist, called to active duty. Baylor was stationed in Washington state and could not practice with the team. Making matters worse, the forward could only play weekend games, because he was only allowed a weekend pass.

    In total, Baylor was given 48 games to have an effect on the Lakers season.

    The Laker great responded with 18.6 rebounds per and a regular-season career-high 38.3 points per contest. This would also mark the first time the Los Angeles Lakers ever played for an NBA title, losing to the Boston Celtics 4-3. However, Baylor again put on a show and in Game 5, he scored 61 points and pulled down 22 rebounds.

    In the playoffs that year, the forward averaged 38.6 points and 17.6 rebounds. Talk about weekend work.

    When people discuss the greatest scorers in NBA history, few utter his name, despite his presence in every significant scoring category in NBA history. His assault on the Lakers’ record books is considerable.

    To be clear, Baylor is also first in total rebounds (11,463) and points per game (27.4). He is second in field goals attempted (20,171), minutes per game (40.0) and rebounds per game (13.5). He is third in free throws made (5763) and free throws attempted (7391). Baylor is fourth in total minutes played (33,863), field goals made (8693) and total points scored (23,149).

    For good measure, Baylor holds the NBA record of 11 straight playoff games of scoring 30 or more points.   

    He was a transcendent player who rescued the Lakers franchise from irrelevance and paved the way for the Minneapolis Lakers to become the Los Angeles Lakers. Elgin Baylor was a phenomenal basketball talent whose presence in NBA history is often overlooked.

    It was Baylor who made the Los Angeles Lakers a household name. However, he was unable to attain that elusive NBA championship and in total would play in eight NBA Finals and lose all eight of them. This would become a staple in his magnificent career and thus the reason many exclude him from the conversation of all-time greats.

    There have been a plethora of stories written and told about how great Jerry West was, but there have been too few written to tell just how great Baylor was. It seems his greatness is almost destined to be an afterthought. What Baylor played through was incomprehensible.

    The things he endured as a black athlete during these trying times in America and still managed to flourish is simply amazing.

8) Kobe Bryant: Guard, 1996-Present

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    "But, if you want to have fun, like I did with Bill Walton, play with LeBron. It would have probably been more fun to play with LeBron, but if you want to win and win and win, it's Kobe. Not that LeBron's not a winner, just that [Kobe's] mindset is to go into every practice, every game, to get better." – NBA Hall of Famer Larry Bird

    Where does one begin with one of the most polarizing and dominant players in NBA history? It has been a tale of two careers for Kobe Bean Bryant, best described as P.S. and A.S. (Pre-Shaq and After Shaq), because despite what most say, Bryant was two completely different players with and without Shaquille O’Neal.

    During Bryant’s time with Shaq, even his staunchest critic would say the guard put winning first. At times, he was unwilling, but he eventually accepted the role of Robin to the Diesel’s Batman.

    Once Shaq departed and Bryant re-upped, L.A. became Bean’s town. 81 points and two scoring crowns later, the obstinate star was sitting at a crossroads. The decision made would alter his career and entrench him as one of the greatest players in league history.

    The Laker great chose championships over individual greatness.  

    For the second season in a row, the Lakers were ousted from the playoffs by the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the 2007 playoffs four games to one. Bryant had experienced enough first-round exits and let all concerned parties know he wanted out of Los Angeles if they did not get him help with the fierce urgency of now

    In the summer of ’07, Bryant commenced his “Leave L.A.” tour. The guard stated publicly he had grown tired of management’s ineptitude in putting the talented pieces around him and their refusal to own up publicly for their miscues.

    On the surface, it appeared as if the Bean was just another superstar trying to leave town when things got rough. Yet with the Lakers, things are never what they seem.

    The truth was the guard was holding the Laker organization’s feet to the championship fire. He went public with the promises made to him during the offseason. Bryant took the tenacity he displays nightly
    and applied it to his business acumen.

    It was this offseason where the impartial learned of Bryant’s unquenchable desire to win championships not games. "Giddy" is the best way to describe Bryant after playing with Pau Gasol for the first time.

    As exceptional as Bryant is on the court, it is his pursuit of the unattainable that distances him from the pack. The great ones have always hated to lose more than they love to win, but Bryant is terrified of losing. It is this fear that has given way to five NBA titles and seven NBA Finals appearances.

    It is this fear of losing that made him unfazed by the spoils of victory.

7) Larry Bird: Forward, 1979-1992

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    "If Bird was black, he'd be just another good guy," Isiah Thomas Two-Time NBA Champion   

    "Disrespected" and "misunderstood" best describe LB. Larry Bird was not a Caucasian ball-player with a high basketball I.Q. Bird was a freakin' assassin who ripped the hearts out of opposing fans, cities and teams than dined on it at center court.

    He was colder than a New Jersey winter and meaner than a college Financial Aid Counselor. While his pigmentation created doubters, his jay turned them into believers. There will never be another Larry Bird and history has done him a tremendous disservice by allowing these kind-hearted gents the opportunity to be mentioned in the same breath as basketball’s greatest villain.

    Bird's play was cutthroat and few players liked him, which suited LB fine, since we all know there is no bond with Satan. What Bird accomplished in his career was remarkable, but the era in which he dominated is what should shut the door on any other notion that he was not a once-in-a-lifetime talent.

    The '80s provided us with basketball’s greatest era. It was in the '80s that the NBA saw its first back-to-back champion since the '60s and its first player to win three straight MVP awards since then. Oddly enough, Bill Russell was the first and only player to ever win back-to-back-to-back MVP awards until—you guessed it—Larry Bird did it 20 years later.

    In fact, in the NBA’s brief professional sports existence, only two players have ever won three straight MVP awards: Bird and Russell—yes, Bird was that nice. There will be other players who will score 60
    points as Bird did and there will be other players who will notch triple-doubles as Bird did, but none will ever say they beat Michael Jordan, Isiah Thomas, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Dr. J, Charles Barkley and Moses Malone season after season—as Bird did.

    Bird’s winner’s circle includes the game’s greatest point guard, greatest shooting guard and arguably its greatest center.

    "Disrespected" and "misunderstood" best describe LB’s career, when it should be "clutch" and "once in a lifetime."

6) Wilt Chamberlain: Center, 1959-1973

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    “He was basketball's unstoppable force, the most awesome offensive force the game has ever seen.” –

    No one ever roots for Goliath. Giants are attacked and rarely applauded. Chamberlain was incomprehensibly dominant and he is one of the few players whose records will withstand the test of time.

    Whether it is consecutive 40-point games, 50-point games or scoring 100 points, Chamberlain is entrenched in the NBA record books forever. Chamberlain’s greatness has been excused because he was so large in both stature and presence.

    Think of the storm that would follow a player if he averaged 50 points a game.

    These points were not dunks and layups, either. They were an assortment of fall-aways, step-backs and yes, even elbow jump shots. The seven-footer had an amazing touch and range for a player—not just a center. Yet many gripe that all he did was dunk over midgets.

    Imagine what we as fans would think of a player, regardless of position, who went for 50 a game, grabbed 20-plus boards a night AND, for good measure, led the league in total assists. That is what Wilt did. Chamberlain’s numbers are so amazing and unfathomable that they cause true disbelief.

    In an era where basketball players are prone to take “blows” during a game or to complain of fatigue during a given game or season, “The Big Dipper’s” most impressive group of numbers may be 45 minutes per for 14 seasons. Simply, his greatness had no days off.  

5) Hakeem Olajuwon: Center, 1984-2002

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    "We tried everything. We put four bodies on him. We helped from different angles. He's just a great player." – Then-Los Angeles Lakers Head Coach Pat Riley

    Whatever your preference or vice regarding big men, Olajuwon fit the mold. "The Nigerian Nightmare" brought elegance and grace to a position known for power and force. The center often played with the footwork of a dancer and left his opponent appearing to possess to left feet.

    Olajuwon was not different from the norm when it came to NBA centers; he was just better. At times, it appeared as if the Rocket center rebounded, blocked a shot and scored all in one motion.

    "The Dream" was a rare center who abused his opponent without over physically laying a hand on him. He was a force on both ends of the floor and has 11 games with 10 or more blocks and is the only player to ever have 10 blocks in a playoff game. For the record, Olajuwon is the all-time leader in blocks (3830) and the single-game playoff leader in rebounds (26).

    Hakeem was a complete defender who could play on- or off-the-ball defense. Olajuwon’s exceptional footwork also allowed him to defend all five positions on the floor. However, completion is sometimes difficult to describe, but easy to identify.

    In basketball, one if the identifiable characteristics of completion is a triple-double. The triple-double displays a player’s mastery of several facets of the game. While the triple-doubles are infrequent, a quadruple-double is an anomaly.

    Yet, staying with theme of making the magnificent look mundane, The Dream accomplished the latter feat twice.  

    Olajuwon’s first quadruple-double came on March 3, 1990 against the Golden State Warriors. The Nigerian Nightmare went for 29 points, 18 rebounds, 11 blocks and 10 assists in a 129-109 win. The second occurred just 26 days later against the Milwaukee Bucks: The Dream’s line read 18 points, 16 rebounds, 11 blocks and 10 assists.

    In basketball and in life, everyone strives for perfection. In that pursuit we can only hope for moments of attainment and only dream of a career’s worth. Hakeem Olajuwon can boast of a career’s worth of perfection.

4) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Center, 1969-1989

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    "Why judge anymore? When a man has broken records, won championships, endured tremendous criticism and responsibility, why judge? Let's toast him as the greatest player ever.” – Pat Riley NBA Hall of Fame coach

    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar defied logic and reason in his NBA career and it has cost him dearly in his NBA afterlife. Instead of being mentioned among the greats, he is an afterthought. If there was any doubt about the lack of respect for one of the game’s true greats, note that Oscar De La Hoya has a statue in front of Staples Center, yet Abdul-Jabbar does not.

    His patented skyhook became popular because college basketball outlawed the dunk. Kareem developed the move on the block because he was tired of getting his shot blocked. The center won the league MVP award for the 1975-76 season despite his team being below .500 at 40-42. These are just a few examples of the center’s career of basketball defiance. When Abdul-Jabbar entered the league, centers were maulers who controlled the lane with steel elbows and iron fists.

    Abdul-Jabbar cultivated a style that allowed him to play 20 seasons. In those seasons, Kareem never played fewer than 62 games. The Laker great began his NBA career leading the league in total points scored in his first three seasons, a feat only four other centers in NBA history can claim: Chamberlain, Mikan, O’Neal and Robinson. The cultured center averaged over 20 points in 17 of his 20 years in the league and never averaged less than 10 points for his entire 20-year career.

    While Wes Unseld and Willis Reed were thought to be more of the prototypical center, it was Abdul-Jabbar’s wiry frame and supreme basketball intellect that provided him the upper hand.

    The man known as “Cap” gave a different identity to a position that had been stereotyped. The center was more than just a skyhook. For 12 years, he grabbed at least 10 or more rebounds a game and routinely averaged at least five assists a game. As a center, Cap went for at least five assists per game—today, we hail a current Lakers point guard who averages just six.

    All the participants on this list have given something eternal to the game of basketball and specifically to the league they played in. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the only one who can say he may have saved
    the league.

    The NBA was involved in a bitter battle with its players and the ABA, who was its rival league at the time. The ABA had what many felt was a more exciting game and featured the game’s most exciting player in Dr. J, who the Milwaukee Bucks had already lost out on once. It was during this time that Kareem’s contract in Milwaukee had run its course. 

    The accepted tale is Kareem requested a trade to a big city and that is why he went to Los Angeles, yet the devil lies in the details. The general manager of the Milwaukee Bucks at the time was Wayne Embry, the first black general manager in the NBA, who was not empowered to make such a trade. Embry answered to a Board of Governors, who had to be “persuaded” to trade Kareem.

    One report has Embry attempting to trade Abdul-Jabbar to the Atlanta Hawks, but said deal fell through. Pete Newell, who was the Lakers general manager at the time and more importantly was a good friend of Embry, quickly swooped in.

    On the surface, this makes sense: Kareem, a reported malcontent, requested out of a Midwest city because it was not diverse enough; look further and you find a player who once referred to himself as a “hired gun.” You will find a player whose friend and former teammate was fighting to keep the ABA-NBA merger from happening, thus giving the players free agency and bigger paydays.

    When the Board of Governors “agreed” to trade Cap to Embry’s good friend Newell, they kept the league’s biggest star not only in the NBA, but put him on display in the biggest market. At season's end, the ABA could no longer make its payroll and eventually merged with the NBA.

    More food for thought: In 1976, which was Abdul-Jabbar’s first year in L.A., there were five teams in the Pacific time zone. In just 10 seasons of the center playing in L.A., the NBA added the Utah Jazz and two more teams in California alone in the Clippers and the Kings.

    So in just 10 years, the league went from fighting its chief rival to the most popular sport in America, and the major move that sparked this growth may have been Abdul-Jabbar’s move to L.A. and not jumping to the ABA.

3) Michael Jordan: Guard, 1984-1993 & 1994-1998 & 2001-2003

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    "We wish Jordan were 7-feet, but he isn't. There just wasn't a center available. What can you do? Jordan isn't going to turn this franchise around. I wouldn't ask him to. He's a very good offensive player, but not an overpowering offensive player." – Rod Thorn, then-Bulls general manager, after
    selecting Jordan in the 1984 NBA Draft 

    Michael Jordan is what happens when immeasurable ambition meets unparalleled work ethic.

    It is easy to succeed when you are terrified of failing. Jordan played huge in so many moments that he began to appear larger than life. When MJ entered the league, it was certain that it was a big man’s
    game. When he left, there was doubt that this was still the case.

    Many of Jordan’s biggest supporters forget the hate directed at the guard while he was shattering the NBA world as we knew it. He was almost traded twice because many felt he was not a champion. The game’s purists despised Jordan's acrobatic moves to the basket and they loathed his unbridled confidence.

    What he believed to be true—that he could conquer the game—many perceived as arrogance.

    It took Jordan seven years to master his craft and achieve the glow only a few can possess. Once acquiring that majestic touch, he never left us disappointed. Many believe he is not just basketball’s most clutch athlete, but that of all professional sports. Today, we are told MJ is the greatest to ever play the game—if you base your decision on scoring championships and the bright lights, then he most certainly is.

    However, those who have studied the game and come from an impartial place recognize the talent and appreciate the greatness of Jordan, but cannot crown him King.

    MJ’s most redeemable quality was his ability to deliver in the game’s most defining moments and when the most coveted prize was available.

    In his six trips to the NBA Finals, the Bulls guard never lost and was the hands-down best player on the floor in each and every series. Once Jordan attained his stature through his play, he never relinquished his position as his generation's Shogun. He was tested 179 times in playoff contests and walked away victorious 119 times.                                                                                         

    Jordan’s biggest accomplishment was making the world love him. When Jordan arrived in Chicago, he was greeted by doubt and disenchantment, yet he preserved. He was the antithesis of what an NBA champion was at the time.  

    For those who have forgotten, Jordan did not wear suits at the beginning of his career. His gift was deliverance where doubt roamed.

    That is what Jordan did to the tune of six championships and a litany of individual records. MJ was an unstoppable juggernaut whose success was dictated by his will and not confined by history’s norms.

2) Magic Johnson: Guard, 1979-1991 & 1995-1996

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    “I don’t think there will ever be another 6’9” point guard who smiles while he humiliates you.” – James Worthy, on longtime Lakers teammate Magic Johnson

    A great surgeon can sometimes perform magic with their hands and provide life to the most abysmal circumstances. So it is fitting to say Magic Johnson was not a basketball player; he was a surgeon.

    It’s not the five championships that made Johnson great; it’s the fact there was nothing he could not do. He was not special; he was unconquerable. He had the will of Jordan and the completion of Olajuwon; he was as cerebral as Kareem and as reliable as Chamberlain.

    Magic brought a flare and style to the game that still has not been duplicated. In addition to revolutionizing the game, Johnson also gave a whole coast a basketball identity. He created the seed that has grown and now made California the new basketball Mecca.

    There was no part of the game in which Magic was not exceptional. Magic would give you 40 points if you needed 20 points, as in Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals. If the time called for 10 boards, Magic would get you 15, as in Game 5 of the 1980 NBA Finals. Lastly, if you needed Magic everywhere, he would be everywhere doing everything.

    That was the Magic Man. In 12 seasons, he played in nine NBA Finals and won five of them. To be clear, Magic's Lakers lost once in the first round in his ENTIRE career. ONCE. The point guard played over half of his career for the ultimate prize, and even delivered there over 50 percent of the time.

    Johnson’s game centered around the team concept. In fact, in each NBA Finals series Johnson played, he accumulated a triple-double in at least one of those games. Regardless of the opponent, Johnson still managed to play at a high level and display his immaculate skill set.

    That’s nine NBA Finals and at least nine triple-doubles. Nothing more needs to be said.

1) Bill Russell: Center, 1956-1969

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    “I played because I was dedicated to being the best. I was part of a team, and I dedicated myself to making that team the best." – Bill Russell 11 Time NBA Champion

    People can argue all day about which facet of the game is most important, but no one can doubt why they play the game it is to win. That is all Bill Russell did.

    Mr. Russell did not win some of the time or even half of the time; the man won ALL the time. He was victorious in a small league with just eight teams and in a big league with 14 teams. He won when they made him sleep in outhouses and school buses.

    Mr. Russell won when they told him not to. He won left- and right-handed, but of most all he won when society prayed he would lose.

    Mr. Russell not only fought players, but politics, just to be able to play for a championship. The Celtic legend controlled a league that at that time had no rules. In fact, the same basketball minds that created the rules used to aid Jordan’s forays to the basket, created rules to stop Abdul-Jabbar, Russell and Chamberlain.

    It was called "competitive balance" at the time. Russell became such a monster rebounder that the powers that be widened the lane to give “other players” a chance to compete.

    Yeah, that was an epic fail.

    It was no mistake that Mr. Russell excelled at the parts of the game that were predicated on heart and desire. Rebounding, defense and leadership are all about true grit—no more, no less—and this is what he possessed in abundance.

    There is never a substitute for hard work and never an excuse for the winner, which is why Mr. Russell has no nickname and why he has no excuses for his conquest. 11 championships in 13 seasons comes without pardon or mercy. Defense and rebounds were the staples that held together his portfolio of success.

    While some on this list are misunderstood, the center is the only one whose accomplishments are ignored. Idealists and dreamers hail records that will someday be broken, however facts can never be altered.

    The fact remains: Mr. Russell was a champion, all the time. MJ and Wilt's scoring records can be broken, but 11 championships in 13 seasons will remain.

    Even today, people refuse to give the man the credit he earned. Nerds disguised as pundits create math formulas disguised as statistics to elevate other players. The truth is, the world is void of a formula that can measure competition, only wins and losses.

    Mr. Russell routinely beat Hall of Famers like West, Chamberlain and Pettit nightly. He was the game’s brightest star despite the world refusing to give him the spotlight. Today, we hail players who have never won championships, place them in arenas where champions rest and comprise the fabric on which competition is based.

    While it is sometimes appropriate to commend the journey, that acclaim should only come when the destination has been reached.

    11 championships in 13 seasons will never ever be broken—never.

    One could sit and list all of Mr. Russell’s dominant performances, like grabbing 30 or more rebounds in three straight NBA Finals games. Or the time he grabbed 40 rebounds and scored 21 points against Bob Pettit. How about his Game 7 performance in the 1960 NBA Finals where he grabbed 35 rebounds and scored 22 points to bring the Celtics back-to-back titles?

    Also worth mentioning is Game 2 of the 1965 NBA Finals where Russell had a triple-double. The center notched 23 points 25 rebounds and 10 assists, but those numbers fail to accentuate Mr. Russell’s greatness.

    The goal of every NBA player and coach is to win the NBA title. It is why they run all those laps and it is why they lift all those weights. 11 times Russell accomplished the ultimate goal and he was the one
    uncompromising factor in each and every title run. It is achievement that time and memory will always remember.