2. Bill Russell
Bill Russell’s imminence is irrefutable on the most fundamental level of all competition: success. His five MVP awards and 11 championships have remained inimitable, but there’s an important distinction to be made between the results and the machinations which caused them.
Between Russell’s coronation as a rookie and his last dance — there was only one thread of commonality between the Celtics’ first championship team and their eleventh. It wasn’t Bob Cousy, John Havlicek, or their coach, Red Auerbach. It was Bill Russell.
“Russell never got as much recognition as he deserved. Race was one reason. During the early sixties no black artist got adequate publicity. Then, too, perhaps pro basketball didn’t have the national following sufficient to merit enormous press attention. Most probably, I think he was overlooked because his greatest accomplishments were in the game’s subtleties and in seeking to guarantee team victory in a society which tends to focus attention on the individual achiever.”
-Basketball Hall of Famer and former senator, Bill Bradley, in his biography Life on the Run.