The Faceoff: Michael Jordan versus Bill Russell

"In today's game, Michael Jordan impersonators are a dime a dozen. The real thing, however, will never be duplicated."

James Costanzo - Sports Editor

Swerving in and out of defenders on Tuesday night, Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade drove to the hoop and tossed an off-balance, no-look shot into the air. As the ball splashed through the net, Wade held up his hands and posed for the crowd, prompting the announcer to draw a fairly lofty comparison.

"That looked a lot like MJ," he said of Miami's young star.

In today's game, Michael Jordan impersonators are a dime a dozen. The real thing, however, will never be duplicated.

Jordan's résumé includes: Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year in 1988, 16 all-star selections, nine all-defensive team nominations, five league Most Valuable Player awards and six championship rings.

"His Airness" also ranks third all-time in scoring and second in steals, with a record 10 scoring titles and six NBA finals MVPs. The only award that Jordan doesn't have polished and placed on his mantle is that of greatest player ever – but be sure that if such an award did exist, MJ would have it.

The only player – aside from maybe Wilt Chamberlain or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – that can hold a candle to Jordan is Boston Celtics great Bill Russell. During his 13-year career, Russell finished second all-time in rebounds, was part of 12 All-star teams and won five league MVPs.

Russell's 11 championship titles, however, are his most impressive achievement; he won more than any single player in league history. It can be said that Russell was the greatest winner of all-time, but the greatest player? That still belongs to Jordan.

First of all, Russell's style of play wouldn't easily translate to today's game. Sure he could contend physically, but would he have been as gifted a rebounder facing much larger competition? How about all those titles? It is definitely a possibility that Russell's era magnified his credentials. Jordan, on the other hand, is the best player regardless of when he played.

Jordan's killer instinct also separated him from the rest. In his The Book of Basketball, Bill Simmons compares Jordan to one of Hollywood's most notorious villains: "In my lifetime, only one superstar was routinely described like Hannibal Lecter. Michael is a killer. Michael will rip your heart out. If you give Michael an opening, he will kill you …"

Just ask Clyde Drexler about Jordan's vicious side. It was against his Portland Trail Blazers that MJ scored a record 35 points in the first half, finishing them off with his sixth 3-pointer and "the shrug" – the very same that Wade tried to imitate on Tuesday night.

Let's face it, Bill Russell was no doubt a champion, but Michael Jordan was, and always will be, the greatest ever.

"I hate to break it to everyone out there, but MJ will never be better than second best."

Greg Cormier- Staff Writer

Bill Russell was a five-time MVP, 11-time NBA champion, 12-time all-star and was recently awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. I know what most of you are thinking: that a guy named Michael Jordan is still the greatest basketball player ever. Well I have just two words for you: Wrong! Wrong!

I hate to break it to everyone out there, but MJ will never be more than second-best. During his professional career, MJ only managed to amass six NBA titles; there are seven players that collected more rings than Jordan simply because they were on the Boston Celtics at the same time as Russell.

Additionally, the player with the most NBA titles to never wear a Celtics uniform is Robert Horry. Once again, I know what you're all thinking right now: who in the world is Robert Horry? All you need to know about Horry is that he averaged seven points per game for his career and he has seven titles, which is one more than MJ. How can MJ be the greatest when even Horry has more titles?

There are some out there who would argue that just because Russell played in a different era than Jordan that he cannot be the greatest because it was "easier" back then. Well then, who would you say is the greatest president of all time? If you have any knowledge of American history then you are probably considering George Washington, Abraham Lincoln or Franklin D. Roosevelt. Could any of those presidents have made it through our current economic problems or the war in the Middle East better than Obama has? Probably not, and yet it doesn't matter to us because what they did in their own time was so astonishing that they are still remembered as the greatest ever.

The same is true about Russell; although he might not have been able to win 11 titles in the league today, nobody else could have won 11 titles in the league at the time he did. Sure Russell had half as many points as MJ, but he had three times as many rebounds, four more inches of height, five more titles and a thirst for winning MJ couldn't touch.

Second is all yours MJ, but Russell is No. 1.