Red Auerbach is one of the more respected names when it comes to the NBA, known for coaching the Celtics to nine championships in a decade of basketball.
Four years ago, Phil Jackson said that he would take Bill Russell over Michael Jordan if he was picking someone to start a team, it turns out that the great Auerbach has the opposite opinion.
During an Esquire interview around 1998 when Jordan was about to win his sixth championship, Auerbach was asked who he would pick if he had to choose between Russell and Jordan. Surprisingly, Auerbach went against the best player he ever coached and picked MJ instead.
"You gotta be realistic," Red Auerbach says. "Listen, everybody knows what I think of Russell. what Rusell did for me. I love Russell. He was the premier shot blocker in the history of the game, and it was more than that with the guy--he was also the premier intimidator. He wasn't just the best rebounder I ever saw; he was the best anticipator. And when he got that ball, he wasn't screwing around with it; he was starting the fast break. He was more interested in winning than anybody I ever saw, he was not a self-promoter, and--you go back and look it up--he was a better scorer than people think. This isn't anything against Russell. Out of all the centers who've ever played, I'd pick him first.
"But Jordan does things nobody could ever do, including selling tickets. He's electrifying on offense, and he is a pretty damn good on defense, too. The thing I love about Jordan, the thing I've always loved, is that he works. He works, and he makes every single player on the floor with him better, every time he's on the floor. And he's a leader."
This is as big of a compliment that Jordan could ever receive considering Bill Russell led the Celtics to eleven championships, nine of which were coached by Auerbach in the 1960’s.
Bill Russell still may be regarded as the greatest Centre of all time which is what Red Auerbach believes. It’s hard to say that there will ever be a more successful player than Russell and there’s not too many going to be too many players in the modern day game that can match the work ethic and ability of Jordan.