In this blog, we will take a look at the rivalry between Michael Jordan and Bill Russell. These two men are widely considered to be the greatest basketball players of all time, and their competitive drive drove them to push each other to new levels. It is hard to imagine two players who were more evenly matched, as they both had an incredible combination of size, strength, speed, and skill. They met in the NBA Finals five times, with Jordan winning three times and Russell winning twice.
Let’s find out with RedsArmy
Bill Russell Vs Michael Jordan
NBA Championships and Seasons
By the Numbers
When their figures are compared, Jordan’s are more enticing: 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.3 assists versus Russell’s 15.1 PPG, 22.5 rebounds, and 4.3 assists. Who knows how many blocked shots Russell has; that statistic was not tracked during his career.
Russell didn’t have to average 25 to 30 points per game since he had guys like Bill Sharman, Frank Ramsey, Tom Heinsohn, and Sam Jones who all averaged more than 20 points per game at some time in their careers.
Russell accomplished what was required for the Celtics to win, which was to rebound and defend. No one has ever done those two things better in NBA history. Russell’s 22.5 rebounds per game are second only to Wilt Chamberlain’s 22.9, and he achieved it while standing 6’9″
Would Michael Jordan’s scoring stats have been the same if he had played with two or three other players who averaged about 20 points per game?
The Early Years
From 1987 through 1990, Michael Jordan put up incredible scoring numbers while also making the all-defense team on a regular basis. Jordan was selected Defensive Player of the Year in 1988. But there were the Detroit Pistons, who knocked the Bulls out of the playoffs three years in a row.
Russell had no such challenges, as his Celtics won nine titles in ten years, including a historic eight straight from 1959 to 1967. That is the longest streak in professional sports in the United States.
Level of Competition
During Bill Russell’s career, the NBA had between 8 and 14 clubs, with at least half of those teams having one or two Hall of Famers. Russell had to beat the Lakers three times in seven games to capture six of his 11 titles.
The Lakers had superstars like Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Frank Selvy, and, later, Wilt Chamberlain. The Lakers were equally as skilled as the Celtics, but they could never beat them in the Finals.
The Lakers, Celtics, and Pistons had all reached their peak at that point, paving the way for the Bulls to dominate. However, with growth came a depletion of skill in the NBA. Miami, Charlotte, Orlando, Toronto, Minnesota, and Vancouver all entered the league during Jordan’s tenure. When you combine that with guys leaving college early or coming straight out of high school, you have a borderline All-Star on each team.
Honors and Awards
|All-NBA First Team
|All-Defensive 1st Team
|Rookie of The Year
In the Clutch
Jordan averaged 33 PTS, 6.4 REB, and 5.7 AST in the playoffs, all of which were up from his regular season stats. Bill Russell’s stats improved throughout the postseason as well: 16.2 PTS, 25 REB, and 4.7 AST.
Russell’s teams were 11-0 in deciding games, including 10-0 in Game Sevens. Russell would average 18 points and 29 rebounds in those games.
The Final Analysis
As brilliant and transcendent as Michael Jordan was, there were certain blemishes in his careers, such as his early problems versus Detroit or his third comeback with the Wizards, which was all about him and not the team.
I also feel Jordan’s defensive reputation is deceptive. He was voted first-team all-defense nine times during his career, but in the second half, Scottie Pippen was given the most difficult defensive assignments.
Pippen guarded the likes of Penny Hardaway, Grant Hill, and, in the 1991 Finals, Magic Johnson.
Russell’s career has no gaps—he retired as a champion and also as a player-coach—so I’ll pick Russell’s success above Jordan’s individual greatness.
NBA Regular Season Stats
Stats Per Game
|Points Per Game
|Rebounds Per Game
|Assists Per Game
|Steals Per Game
|Blocks Per Game
Who has more rings, Jordan or Bill Russell?
Russell’s 11 titles almost double Jordan’s six rings, many could say that even though fewer championships, Michael’s two three-peats were a very difficult achievement to get, but the Celtics legend managed to win eight straight NBA championships in Boston.
Why is Jordan better than Russell?
Jordan also has the highest scoring average of all time but he is not the greatest player ever, and here is why. When you compare their numbers, Jordan’s are the sexier by comparison: 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.3 assists to Russell’s 15.1 PPG, 22.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists.
Who is better than Michael Jordan?
LeBron James’ statistics indicate that he is a much better overall basketball player. While Jordan scored more overall, LeBron is a more efficient player, shooting better from two and three-point range. LeBron is also a much better passer and rebounder than Jordan ever was.
- Read more: Michael Jordan vs LeBron James
There is no clear winner in this matchup, as both Jordan and Russell were incredibly dominant players who had a huge impact on the game of basketball. However, if we had to choose one player as the winner, it would probably be Jordan. He was a more versatile scorer and a better shooter, and he also had the advantage of playing in a more modern era with better teammates