Originally Posted by dankok8
It's true that from 59-60 until 63-64 Russell had clearly more talented rosters than Wilt. However he molded those teams into a juggernaut. Blocking shots to his teammates to kick-start fast breaks is just one. He covered for guys who had trouble defending, he tasked his guards with simply boxing out and he'd grab the rebounds, he'd facilitate from the high post and reward his teammates over and over and over for moving well without the ball. His intense competitiveness and puking before games got his team's respect and they were hyped before each and every game. They became him and he became them!! Celtics didn't have many one on one scorers. They need a system which Russell orchestrated and masterfully executed. He knew how to play and defend all five positions. He had detailed scouting reports on every player, his own and the opponents.
Also from 64-65 until 68-69 Wilt's rosters were either better or even with Russell's every year and in that span Russell still won FOUR OF THE FIVE SERIES between them. The notion that Wilt would dominate Russell every year with a better roster is LUDICROUS... because he didn't!
Russell's intelligence, psychological warfare, leadership, and dedication and sacrifice don't show up in the stat sheet. When you're discussing Bill Russell you may as well throw the stat sheet out the window... or at least put it in a giant pile of salt.
It's a fact that those stacked Celtics rosters laden with HOFers got nowhere before he came or after he left.
Sorry, but again no real research.
The ONLY two years Chamberlain had rosters equal to, or better, top-to-bottom, were with his 66-67 and 67-68 Sixers.
The 64-65 Sixers? You are kidding right? This was essentially a lousy non-playoff team that gave up three players to get Chamberlain. They had POTENTIAL, but even in the playoffs, it was ALL Chamberlain in the most one-sided beatdown of a fellow GOAT center in NBA history. And it took that monumental series from Wilt to get them to a game seven, one point loss.
65-66? True, Philly edged Boston out for the best record, by winning their last 11 games. BUT, take a closer look. Sam Jones missed 13 games. Havlicek missed nine. And the rest of the roster, including Russell, missed games, as well. Also, the Sixers beat Boston 6-3 during their regular season H2H's, and in those nine games, Chamberlain averaged 28.3 ppg, 30.7 rpg, and shot a very educated guess of .525. Then, in the playoffs, Boston slapped Philly, 4-1. Surely Chamberlain fell on his face, right? Yep... 28.0 ppg, 30.2 rpg, and shot .509. As the recaps clearly proved...Chamberlain just murdered Russell. Even in his worst game of the series, one recap claimed that Wilt nearly beat Boston by himself. In his WORST game. So how did that Sixer team lose to the Celtics. It was not because of Russell...at all. It was because, as almost always, his TEAMMATES just trounced Wilt's. Chamberlain's teammates collectively shot .352 from the field in that series. Man for man the Celtics just annihilated them. ONLY Chamberlain played well, and again, he played nearly the same as he did during the regular season (when, as always, he waxed Russell in every aspect of the game.)
68-69? Surely a 55-25 Laker team would have had a better roster than the 48-34 Celtics, right? Well, the reality was, the Celtics coasted during the regular season. They resigned themselves early on to just make the playoffs. And aside from a peak West, and a severely shackled Chamberlain, Boston was clearly better, players 3-10...and by a landslide. And before someone mentions Baylor...he was arguably the WORST Laker player in that series (he had THE lowest FG% in the entire playoffs.) How deep was that Boston team? In a game seven, Em Bryant (yes, Em Bryant) scored 20 points. And I have documented many times, just how poorly coached that Laker team was. That they were able to take a much deeper Celtic team to seven games, with ONLY West playing well, and Chamberlain as their only other quality player (while his coach much preferred the shot-jacking Baylor taking the bulk of the shots, Wilt was still the best defensive player on the floor, and by far the best rebounder), was amazing in itself.
66-67. Better players from 1-6. After that, and as ALWAYS, Boston had a MUCH deeper bench (and it while it would not come into play in THIS series, it surely did in their 67-68 EDF's.) But aside from the Chamberlain, the advantages were not dramatic. Philly had a much better frontcourt, and Boston had a better backcourt. Keep in mind that Boston still had Havlicek and Sam Jones, as well as Bailey Howell, who was a very good offensive player.
In any case, with Wilt's teammates playing Russell's about even in the '67 EDF's, guess what? The Sixers just crushed Boston. In fact, it took a horrible game by Philly (and Wilt's worst game of the series) for Boston to avoid a sweep in game four, with a 121-117 win at home. Then in the clinching game five, the Celtics shot out to an early 17 point lead, but behind Wilt's 22 first half points, the Sixers crept back into the game. They blew it open in the 3rd quarter, and by mid-way thru the 4th quarter, they led 131-104...or a staggering 44 point turnaround in a little over half the game.
What the 66-67 EDF's PROVED however, was that had Wilt been given an equal supporting cast, there was no doubt that he would have beaten Russell every year.
And of course that brings up to the OP. The 67-68 Sixers were essentially the same team that they had been in 66-67 (they did add Johnny Green.) And the result, even with Chamberlain suffering through injuries all season, they still romped to the best record in the league...and by a mile. They were clearlyn the best team in the league, and were well on their way to an second straight dominating title when...well, you have read it here. They were absolutely DECIMATED by injuries, and even with all of them, they still only lost a game seven by four points. That, in itself, was clear evidence that evn a reasonably healthy Sixer team would have repeated. And for sure, a fully healthy team would have waltzed to a title.
As for Russell's "winning." Russell was essentially traded to Boston for Ed Macauley. This was a 39-33 playoff team the year before Russell arrived. And it already had Bob Cousy Frank Ramsey, and Bill Sharman, as well as Arnie Risen (remember him...I will bring him up again.) And the Celtics actually drafted Tom Heinsohn before they drafted Russell. And Heinsohn would not disappoint, either, as he would go on to win ROY.
How did Russell not win ROY that season? He missed 24 games. This is where it gets interesting. In the 48 games that Russell played, Boston went 28-20. In the 24 he missed, and with Risen playing center, the Celtics went 16-8...or an actual better record withOUT Russell. THAT was the talent level that Russell enjoyed from day one.
And how about this?
In the 57-58 Finals, in which Russell was injured, ...the series was tied 1-1 when Russell injured his ankle in the third quarter of game three. They lost that game by three points, but they actually outscored the Hawks in the 4th period, and withOUT Russell, by five points.
Now, surely without Russell, Boston would have no chance, right? Well, without Russell in game four, Boston won handily, 109-98. And, while they did lose game five without him, it was by TWO points. Russell finally returned for game six, but could only play 20 minutes. Boston would go on to lose that game by one point, BUT, they outscored the Hawks in the second half, withOUT Russell.
Not only that, but Boston would continue to add players every year. Sam Jones in '58. Havlicek in '63. Then, Auerbach would go out and steal players too. How could the Celtics pick up Clyde Lovellette for their '64 title run, for nothing? Lovellette had averaged 21 ppg on .471 just the year before (of course, Chamberlain ended his career with one punch in the '64 Finals.) Later they added players like Wayne Embry (a multiple all-star), or Em Bryant (remember him in game seven of the '69 Finals) and Bailey Howell, a 20 ppg scorer on an very high efficiency for his era (.512.)
They always had by far, the deepest teams in the league, and aside from Russell, they could simply plug in another great player when they needed to.
And I have read those that use the argument that Boston flopped the year after Russell retired. The reality was, the Celtics had no idea that Russell was going to retire, and they didn't draft a center. Furthermore, the 68-69 Celtics were on their last legs. Sam Jones retired right after the final game, too, which no one seems to remember. This was a Celtic team that had slowly declined from its peak in the mid-60's.
And yes, they fell to 34-48 (down from 48-34 in '69) in '70. But here again, Henry Finkel was their center. They drafted Cowens in '71, and he immediately led them to a 44-38 record. In '72 Boston surged to 56-26. In '73 they set a new team record, which still stands, of 68-14. In '74 they won an NBA title. And they would go on to win one more in '76.
So the loss of Russell was really only felt for ONE season. And had Boston been better prepared, who knows. In any case, they became an elite team within two years, a record-breaking team in three, and a two time champion in four.