Originally Posted by gladhands
This is fair. Make no mistake, Bill Russell is great for his era. He was also fortunate enough to play with 6 Hall of Famers. It's difficult to compare players across eras, but frankly only a handfull of pre-merger players would have hacked it in today's league.
Knowing what we do about Russel's game, size and the era in which he played, it's a stretch to project him as an elite player in the modern NBA. That means a lot when discussing all-time greats. Versatility also means a lot, and Russell was a one dimensional player.
It's hugely difficult to compare across eras, but fun to hypothesize. I fundamentally agree that if you pluck Bill Russell out of 1963, and make him the center for your 2011 Celtics, he doesn't make the team. No question. But I think it's an interesting question about what makes a player dominent. If you cloned Bill Russell in 1984, does he become a great NBA player? He's definitely not going to make it as a center, but would his skills have developed differently (i.e. made him a forward) if that's what it took to make it?
There is no question that he dominated the NBA for more than 10 years. He played a game that enabled an unprecedented championship streak. The question is whether the game is inherent in the individual, or if the individual tailored his game to dominate the situation? Would 1984-born Bill Russell develop his game differently and be dominant nonetheless?
Barry Bonds is an interesting example of this. Early in his career, he basically could have evolved into a slick hitting base-stealing machine, but the league valued the long ball, so he tailored his game (and his body) to suit.
So I agree, as a modern Center, Bill Russell is not much in the modern NBA, but I ask - how do we know what he would be in the modern NBA?