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Phil Jackson says he’d take Bill Russell over Michael Jordan

Legendary coach Phil Jackson [1], on an interview tour to promote his new book, gave a surprising answer when asked which player in NBA history he would choose to start a franchise.

“In my estimation, the guy that has to be there would be Bill Russell [2],” Jackson told Time magazine [3]. “He has won 11 championships as a player. That’s really the idea of what excellence is, when you win championships.”

Jackson coached Michael Jordan [4]‘s Bulls to six championships and Kobe Bryant [5]‘s Lakers to five more. In his book, “Eleven Rings,” Jackson compares the two, noting that Jordan was a better leader, shooter and defender. Asked which one he’d prefer to have on his team, Jackson played it down the middle.

“I would flip a coin,” he said. “Whichever one came up heads or tails, I’d take that person. They were that good.”