In terms of G.O.A.T. conversations, I have Bill Russell listed in my Top 10.
Despite his average scoring numbers to back up his beyond-normal rebounding stats, Bill Russell should have won at least eight Finals MVP awards if this was available during his time.
As a consolation prize, the NBA renamed the trophy in his favor.
What a boss.
In a time when his Boston Celtics faced the likes of the Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia Warriors/76ers, Cincinnati Royals, New York Knicks, and other major players of that generation, his team stood tall because they had him in the middle. Actually, it's hard to list Boston's opponents back then because with the exception of solo-mid Wilt and the Jerry West and Elgin Baylor-led Lakers, Boston just has too many weapons. Bob Cousy will orchestrate the attack and fire it on either Tommy Heinsohn, Bill Sharman, Sam Jones, or later, John "Hondo" Havlicek. If it connects, fine... but let it be known that Russell is at the shaded lane lurking, just in case they needed another opportunity to score. His battles with Wilt Chamberlain are epic - insane even - given that back then, containing Wilt alongside the 30-point barrier is an awesome thing. Sure, Wilt Chamberlain scores a battalion of points every single night but giving The Stilt single coverage made it easy for the rest of Boston to swarm Hal Greer and the rest of the Sixers.
Russell concentrated on defense as the rest of his team manned the offensive. Another award that escaped Russell is the Defensive Player of the Year award - first handed in 1983 to Sidney Moncrief - which is in some ways a blessing and a curse for the NBA legend. While it took two decades for the league to recognize its premiere defensive pest... at least his brand of basketball is given light. Because of Russell, guys like Moncrief, Dikembe Mutombo, Dennis Rodman, Ben Wallace, Bruce Bowen, and Draymond Green are held in high regard.
Now I am not saying Russell is no slouch on offense. In fact, he is a big man that can score, can muscle his way on the inside and can pass. Russell averaged 15.1 points, 22.5 rebounds, and 4.3 assists. These career numbers are enough for Russell to win 5 MVP awards, 11 championships, and 11 All-NBA Teams.
While it's nice that Russell got to recognize his fans during the 75th Anniversary Ceremony, I would have rooted for the Celtics to win one for him in the 2022 NBA Finals.
I guess the "good" thing about this is that the last time the Boston Celtics won a championship, they did this in the year Boston patriarch Red Auerbach and 80s Celtic legend Dennis Johnson died. Arguably, Russell is that big of a name to command support from the people of Beantown, especially with how the Celtics finished the 2021-22 NBA season.
Bill Russell wanted respect in a time when it was hard to come by. Today we recognize the contributions of Russell to the current style of play, especially in terms of becoming a leader to his teammates and becoming the man to his fans.
I guess his championship spirit lives on whenever a player conquers his fears and makes the best out of a situation en route to a Finals MVP award.