Oscar Robertson and Bill Russell are overrated

This is a guest post by Contributor Porter Brewer. To submit an article and become a contributor, email Info@MixedTapeVideos.com.


 

I know many nostalgic fans disagree with me, but I think that some of the old school guys are overrated. It is impossible to deny when watching highlights that there is a significant difference in skill level when comparing the NBA of the 60s and 70s to the modern NBA. When I make my greatest of all time list, it is a list of the players who I think are truly the greatest of all time. It’s not the best of their era or anything like that. If I drafted a team, my “GOAT” list is the order in which I would draft because I truly think they are the greatest basketball players of any era to ever grace a basketball court with their greatness. When I look at guys like Oscar Robertson and Bill Russell, they simply don’t rank that high on my list. Here’s why.

Bill Russell

Bill Russell was a great team player, probably the best ever. The problem with Bill though is that he was absolutely terrible on offense. His 15 points on 22 rebounds a game is pretty pathetic. He is basically a 60s levelheaded version of Dennis Rodman. However, I still consider him an all-time great because there was obviously something different about him that made him able to work as a player coach in the 60s, a time when race relations were at a low point. His leadership was second to none, which is the biggest reason why he has more rings than fingers. He was also a freak on defense and on the boards, which is why I believe Dennis Rodman is such a good comparison. I might even consider him the best defender of all time, but you can’t be a top ten player in the history of the game if you can’t score. If he played today, he would never sniff an MVP. There are also a few facts that shed proper light on his championships. For example, he won many of his championships when there were only eight teams in the league. More than that though, there was no salary cap! That is why he always had such a great team. Boston had a big market and could afford to continually sign the best players to huge deals. During his career, he played with legends like Bob Cousy, John Havlicek, and Sam Jones. These are actually just three of the six Hall-of-Famers with whom Russell played!

Oscar Robertson

Oscar Robertson is the one who I’m really not that impressed with. He was a terrible defender and he played in a time where basketball was basically a series of fast breaks. The bottom line is that the number of possessions per game was way higher in the 60s. Also, shooting was terrible at the time, allowing for a lot more rebounds. The comparison to Russell Westbrook is a great one. Can you imagine if LeBron James played at the time? He would have had a million points, rebounds, and assists every game! Also, my biggest complaint with Oscar is that his highlights show that his game wouldn’t fly in today’s NBA. His season average of a triple-double will live in basketball lore forever, but I believe that he beat up on a lesser NBA, not to mention the fact that he never won a ring until he played with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Up to now, it may seem like I’m dismissing all of the old-time greats. However, that’s not true. Some of those old school players would dominate in any era. Which brings me to…

Wilt Chamberlain

Wilt Chamberlain is the only player from the 60s that I absolutely believe would be a superstar in today’s league. The man’s athleticism was unparalleled, and this would still be the case if he played today. His combination of size, strength, speed, and coordination makes me wonder if he is from this planet! In college he won the Big 8 Conference high jumping competition three years in a row and ran a 49-second 400 meter dash! This becomes even more impressive when you consider the fact that he was 7’1″. In my opinion, he is the most athletic player in NBA history. In the end though, what separates him from the other greats of the 60s is his highlight tape. The video below will give you a small peek into just how unique Wilt really was. Some of his post moves might be outdated, but with his skill set, it wouldn’t take him any time at all to adjust his game and become the best center in today’s league. I have him ranked #3 all time.

Basically, it’s all a matter of context. Players like Oscar Robertson and Dennis Rodman downplay the success of current players like Stephen Curry, claiming that it’s due only to the shortcomings of the new-era league. Well, that argument can go both ways.

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26 thoughts on “Oscar Robertson and Bill Russell are overrated

  1. Tong Zou says:

    Disagree with Russell slightly and Oscar and agree about Wilt. I agree Wilt was better than Russell as an overall player but the thing that made Russell great was his killer instinct which like Jordan and Kobe, is an intangible, and his perfect 10-0 record in elimination games proves this. Yeah there were only 8 teams in the league at the time and no salary cap… which means other non Celtic teams were just as loaded! Look at the Lakers, Knicks, 76ers, Hawks etc all the teams were pretty loaded back then not just the Celtics! what made the Celtics great was Russell! the year after he retired the Celtics went nowhere!
    About Oscar – Kareem considered him the best player he ever played with, which says something. Oscar was the dominant guard of the time – he was Wilt at the guard position. We shouldn’t put him down cause he was dominant? And yes Wilt would absolutely dominate today.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. PBrewer says:

      I appreciate your comments. You make some great points, but what do you think about the difference in highlights. When watching Oscar, it seems like he just used his size and had a decent midranger. He doesn’t really look fast or athletic to me and I don’t think he could do that in the modern NBA because he’s only 6’5″. And Bill Russell is a beast but he just can’t score. The guy was definitely a ruthless winner, but in my opinion, he’s still an undersized center that can’t score. I would love to hear your thoughts! Thanks for commenting.

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      1. Tong Zou says:

        He may or may not but size aint everything. Russell got all those 23 rebound average despite being 6’9. His successor Cowens averaged 14 rebounds a game despite being 6’9 also. Unseld, Thurmond, Lucas were some other great rebounders. You can say maybe their stats were padded due to more possessions back then but the modern day example is Rodman, Barkley, Moses Malone grabbed 20+ rebounds in the modern slower paced era, none of them were particularly tall. How about Ben Wallace? And todays NBA Andre Drummond? Rebounding is about tenacity more than about size. So Oscar being 6’5 I think thats still pretty big for a point guard even today. Plus I’d love to get your opinions on 2 other great players of the time Elgin Baylor and Rick Barry, I think they would also do as well in todays NBA albeit not be as dominant scoring wise as back then due to slower pace.

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      2. Tong Zou says:

        I forgot to mention also, Bob Pettit who was also 6’9 and averaged 16 rebounds a game third all time. I’m not quite sure how his game would translate either. There were taller players back then but definitely not as dominant.

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      3. Theron says:

        Oscar was 6’5 barefoot, if he played today he would be listed at 6’6 or 6’7,because nowadays they go by your height in your sneakers, not to mention he was 225lbs, he would be considered a big point guard in any era. He would be too big for these point guards.

        Guys like Oscar who played back in the 60’s werent allowed to palm the ball when they dribble,thats why players back then dont run that fast with the ball. By the league allowing players to palm the ball when they dribble,(I believe they started to allow that in the 80’s) it allows them to take an extra step with the ball which enables them to run faster and make quicker moves with the basketball. If players today played in the 60’s, they wouldnt be moving as fast as they do now because they wouldnt be able to palm the ball when they dribble and because of the training methods back then, so their attributes would actually decrease.

        Now lets look at the post up game. If Oscar played today he would be allowed to drop his shoulder into the defenders chest and move him out the way,something he wasnt allowed to do back in the 60’s. So Oscar would have an easier time now. Plus if u put the old school players in the modern era, their attributes would go up.

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      4. Theron says:

        Mark Price was 6’0 and 170, and averaged 19.6ppg,9.1assts, Jeff Hornacek was 6’3 averaged 20.1 ppg,5reb,5assts. These guys werent more athletic than Oscar Robertson and they played well.

        Oscar Robertson also had a great jump shot! Definitely not overrated.

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  2. Sydney says:

    I think the biggest selling point for the argument on Oscar is the difference in place. More possessions equals more points. And yes, Russell was a great winner but he tends to be overrated given that his game was all defense.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tong Zou says:

      I don’t know how you can overrate defense tho. Defense wins championships. See the ’79 Sonics, ’04 Pistons and ’11 Mavericks for proof. Teams full of essentially role players but won due to their tenacious defense

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      1. Sydney says:

        Don’t get me wrong, he’s one of the greatest defensive players ever and was valuable to his team for that reason. But when I rank the all-time greats, I look at them as whole players, and Russell was all defense. To be up there with the greatest of all time, you can’t be a one-sided player, in my opinion.

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    2. Tong Zou says:

      I agree. Thats why ESPN put him out of the top 5. Which I was a little shocked because Russell on most peoples lists is a top 5 player all time. Because of what you said I agree his lack of offense is a problem, but he’s still top 10 player for sure. Can’t ignore the 5 MVPs or 11 rings. He might be “one dimensional” but he was so dominant in that one dimension that he won 11 rings, so that is at least top 10 in my books. Some people might put Hakeem and Shaq higher above Russell because of they were better all around players and I’m fine with that. I’m 99% certain if you put Hakeem in the 60s on the Celtics he would win 11 rings also.

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      1. Sydney Leigh says:

        Yes, I agree that he’s top 10 all time. We have him in our top 10 greatest players of all time list too. We put Hakeem at 3rd all time, which surprised some people, but his dominance on both ends of the court outshines anything Russell did.

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      2. PBrewer says:

        With Oscar Robertson, he would still have good size for a point guard, but he wouldn’t be big enough to bully people inside, and he doesn’t look fast enough to blow past people either. And I think Rodman is a great comparison to Bill Russell, but Rodman isn’t considered top 10 all time. Russell would be a role player of he played today in my opinion. I’m not saying that Rodman is as good as Russell. I’m just saying that his playing style could never win an MVP, or even be built around.

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  3. PBrewer says:

    Great point. They absolutely did, but is Ben Wallace isn’t considered an all time great and never won an MVP. I agree with Sydney that you can’t be top 5, or in my opinion, even top 10 if you can’t score. And no one in today’s game would ever win an MVP without the ability to score. You really do make great points. I love the Ben Wallace comparison!

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    1. Tong Zou says:

      The problem with basing a players greatness on scoring is you are weighting it too much towards one end of a players ability. Most fans only look at scoring to judge a player and don’t care how they score, how efficient they are, etc. If you look at advanced metrics like WP48 and Win shares you know that defense plays a huge role. Ben Wallace contributed about half the win shares on that detroit team. Rodman contributed most of the win shares on his teams as well. Defense just wins games pure and simple. Thats why people judge Pippen so highly is his ability to defend. Thats why Leonard and Iggy got the last 2 Finals MVPs. We haven’t seen MVPs in the modern era given out to players who aren’t good offensively cause scoring is often weighted way too much. People often believe Iverson and Isiah were better than Stockton for this reason. Stockton contributed much more wins to his team than those guys did, but gets overlooked cause he didn’t score as much. But I agree the players in the top 10 should be players who are great offensively AND defensively. But if one player dominates one side so much, then that should be counted for too. For example Magic was never a great defensive player and neither was Bird. But they’re both so great offensively that we overlook that. Russell’s defense was just as good as Magic/Birds offense so why don’t we give him credit for that?

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      1. PBrewer says:

        Again, great point. I have Stockton above Iverson and Isiah Thomas for the same reason. In the end though, in my opinion, Bill Russell is the hardest player in history to rank because I do respect his defense as much as anybody. I also respect his ability to just get it done and win. However, with all that said, I think there are too many knocks on the tangibles to consider him top 10 all time. He is small, played with 6 hall of famers, and was such a one way player. I also think he is absolutely an all time great and a rightful legend because he was the cornerstone of the most dominant team in history, and even a player coach.

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  4. Edward Diener says:

    Where does the idea that Russell could not score come from ? Because the blogger stated it as true, and then everybody just agrees with it ? Has any of the commenters actually seen in the past Russell play in person as I have ? Do any of you take into account how many times Russell shot in a game ? How about the fact that Russell had the likes of Heinsohn, Cousy, Sharman, Havlicek, Sam Jones and others who were good scorers to say the least, and did not have to take many shots in a game to be effective. Or that the Celtics had by far the best fast break in the league when they played, triggered by Russell’s rebounding and outlet passing abilities. Or that Russell in the post was often the basis of the Celtics half-court offense. Or that when Russell got the ball in the post no other center in the league, including Chamberlain, could take the ball away from him. Or that Russell was an excellent passer in the post to players was cutting free to the basket or positioning themselves for an easy mid-range jumper.

    I have news for all of you that look at statistics and then make your biased comments based on them. Bill Russell was the key of the Celtics success both on offense and defense over the 13 years he played in the NBA. 11 NBA championships and the testimony of teammates, who would rather have had Russell than Chamberlain, attest to that again and again. The idea that Russell was “terrible on offense” is pure bull.

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  5. Juice77 says:

    I saw them play. It’s obvious that most of the posters have not.
    Oscar absolutely dominates in any era. Look at the videotape. He has a very soft high percentage shot. Tremendous point guard. Can also rebound.

    You can measure Russell by Kareem. Russell and Chamberlain are both on Rushmore. Then Kareem came and was the only one who was ever at their same level. He played 20 years and nobody’s been close to those heights since. Hakeem, Shaquille, sorry, not as good as Kareem, who dominated from HS to LewCLA to the Bucks w O and w Magic and Showtime. Russell Wilt and Kareem are the only ones in this league.

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  6. Robert Brown says:

    Oscar robably wouldn’t have been the primary ball handler in the NBA now. He would have played the 2 or 3. He also was more of a half court player–control the ball, back in, then shoot or pass it.

    In his prime Wilt had a great turn around jump shot. Unfortunately, highlights usually just show his moves around the basket. And, unlike Shaq, who either walked or committed an offense foul when he had the ball, the refs let the D beat on his arms the whole game.

    Russell was 6’10.5″. He would now be listed at 7’0″. With weight training he would have played at 245 or so. He was usually the fastest man on the court and one of the best passing great centers. Only Walton and Sabonis compare with him. And Russell was one of the only two players I have seen whose presence made everyone around him better. The other was Larry Bird.

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  7. Rudy York says:

    You have some fair points but overall I disagree. Bill Russell was an absolute freak of nature. Not to Chamberlain’s extent but close to it. He was 6’10” and could run like a gazelle and had an incredible leaping ability in addition to unbelievably high endurance. I don’t understand how you can say that a career average of 15 PPG is terrible. It simply isn’t. Russell averaged 19 a game one season, nearly 25 PPG some playoffs, and could score well over 30 if he wanted, scored 37 with Chamberlain, one of the best defensive bigs of all time guarding him. This just wasn’t what the team needed. The Celtics were loaded with talent so Russell was only the 3rd or 4th scoring option for his career. 15ppg for a career as a 3rd or 4th option? That’s actually very good. Add this to superb passing and ball handling skills for a big, being arguably the best one-man fast break player ever, the second best rebounder ever, and the most dominant defender the game has ever scene. By no means is Dennis Rodman a comparable player. They were both elite rebounders and defenders, yes. But, Russell was not only better at both, he was much better at all other facets of the game. Rodman could not match Russell’s athleticism, overall offensive game, leadership or IQ. Bill was also straight up cold-blooded. Won a high school state championship, 2 NCAA state championships, Olympic Gold, and 11 Championships in 13 NBA seasons. 1 finals he was injured during and if not for that it could have been 12. He also never lost a game 7 during his career, but played in countless. Because of this inherent killer-instinct, his freakish athleticism, overwhelming defensive and rebounding abilities, tremendous basketball IQ, and his underrated all around offensive game, Russell could still dominate today. He may not be winning 5 MVPs but he’d win a couple. You also included the fact that he played in an 8-team (actually 9 team) league for the majority of his career. Wouldn’t this make it more difficult because you have to play other elite teams more often and the talent is more condensed? Imagine the best players from the 30 teams today forming 9. Given there is a higher quantity of talented players today, but you still get the point. In Russell’s last 2 years 5 teams were added but the result of him winning the championship stayed the same. Today you see teams like the Cavs waltz into the deeper rounds in the playoffs to play the actual competition in the later rounds. Yes, upsets do happen but not often so it’s not like it really would’ve made a huge difference.

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  8. Rudy York says:

    As for Oscar Robertson, you do have a point that he probably wouldn’t average 10+ rebounds in a game today. But he still would be an elite rebounder for his position. Robertson was as complete of a player as they come. I don’t see how you surmise that he is slow or a terrible defender. He was actually pretty fast and a good defender. His defense often is unfairly criticized because it wasn’t on par with his outstanding offensives game. Robertson could score in anyway he needs, inside or out. His jump shot was far better than decent and he was a very good ball handler especially considering the restrictions during the time he played. He was a tremendous rebounder and passer and very athletic. 6’5″ is huge for a point guard and he’d likely list at 6’6″ today. He did only win 1 championship and play in only 2. But he played the first decade of his career in the same conference as the Celtics who were essentially an all-star team. You can’t fault Robertson for being unable to defeat them and the same can be said about other players like Baylor, West and Chamberlain among others. The only star teammate that the Big O ever had on the Royals, before going to the Bucks, was Jerry Lucas. This was only for a few years but they even took the Celtics to 7 games once in the conference finals. Kareem Abdul Jabbar played with the best 2 point guards in NBA history. Although I think that Magic is better, Kareem picked Robertson as the superior allaround player. Robertson would still dominate today. You talk about how Lebron would dominate if he played in the 60s/70s. He would probably be very good still but the sheer physicality of the game back then would be tough for him to handle. Any time a team is successfully able to play him physically today he struggles and throws fits. Imagine how it would be back then, when someone like Wilt Chamberlain (even bigger, stronger and more athletic) almost retired as a rookie because of the countless injuries he’d endure. If you dominated back then you would get harassed by what would today be flagrant fouls. Lebron also wouldn’t be gifted calls by the refs back then like he is today and would not have had the same training or nutrition if he were born 50 years before. James would be about 6’6″, 225 lbs and would be like a better passing but not as efficient scoring Elgin Baylor.

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  9. Brian says:

    Only a moron would compare Russell to Rodman. Rodman was a great rebounder but averaged about a half a block a game. It’s said that if blocks were counted when Russell and Chamberlain played they would have been the all time leaders by a shitload. Russell was said to average close to 10 per game. In the two out of 13 seasons Russell didn’t get a ring one was against an all time great 76ers team with Wilt, and the other year he was playing with a broken foot in the finals. Don’t forget about his Olympic gold medal and two national championships in college and the 55 game win streak in college. Those 60’s teams had loads of talent. They look less athletic because they had to actually keep their hands on top of the basketball. Take a 60’s team with 60’s referees and put it against a modern team and the modern team would get destroyed because they would get called for palming on almost every possession.

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  10. Jay Kolodne says:

    Undoubtedly players are bigger, stronger, faster today but how can you say that Oscar Robertson played against a “lesser NBA” when with the expansion of today’s league, you have countless more roster spots to fill requiring players that in Robertson’s day would’ve had no place in the league? Not to mention that players today – especially the stars, can “get away with murder” foul wise, especially travelling, whereas as recently as the 1980’s the did a much better job of “calling a foul a foul” regardless of who it was on. Not like today when every little “ticky tack” touch of another player – specifically star players is considered a foul – IF they choose to call it (yes, I know that sounds contradictory, but there is the caveat) – in MJ’s day and before, to truly foul somebody you had to really commit some legit contact. If given (approx.) 6 months (totally just picking a random amount of time there, maybe even 6 weeks is enough) to work out with today’s modern methods, diet properly, and study/adjust to today’s modern game, get used to a 3-point line, and moves that didn’t exist back then, Oscar in his prime would’ve done “just fine” in today’s game.

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  11. Robert L Roth says:

    Before a game in college Bill Russell and K.C. Jones would scout out the opponent’s court by bouncing a ball on different parts of the floor to see where the dead spots were. In addition to their great physical gifts, such focus and intelligence and planning went a long way to make them the great players (in Russell’s case a player for the ages) that they were. If an opponent lost the ball because it bounced funny at a crucial point of the game it would just be chalked up as good luck.

    In the case of Oscar Robertson there is not a thing he couldn’t do and do well. He was beautiful to watch. He was strong and graceful and like Russell and Jones straight out brilliant. If there had been a three point line he would have mastered the three point shot. I think someone like Roberston had such a strong will and great talent it would be almost impossible for him not to make whatever adjustment would be necessary to make him a major superstar in whatever he era he would play.

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  12. Perry Tweed says:

    The best players from anytime in the modern NBA era (shot clock, integration) would excel in any era. Those who are claiming Russell and Robertson are ‘over-rated’ obviously never saw them play and therefore really don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. You can’t tell from grainy old footage how good a player really was. The observation about the way modern players are allowed to palm the ball is astute. Dribbling the ball ‘properly’ would force today’s superstars to slow down considerably. If a modern player tried to do what they normally do in a game played back in the 60s, they’d get called for traveling or palming constantly.
    Even equipment affects the way the game is played. Slam dunks were rare back then for good reason. A monster dunk on an old style backboard might result in it getting destroyed. That was especially true of the early glass backboards with the fixed, rigid rim.
    The best players of today would of course do well back then…eventually.
    Pre ABA pro basketball had no 3 point play so a guy like Steph Curry would have had to reinvent himself because a staple of his game didn’t exist back then.

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  13. Mr.Perfect says:

    You all can write all about how great they were but guess what jerks? YouTube exists and your idols look like butt, scoring against a bunch of dorky glasses and pocket protector wearing scrubs. I guess it’s true what they say about old timers.

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