HH Tournament: (1) Bill Russell vs (3) Kevin McHale

May 14, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Houston Rockets head coach Kevin McHale watches from the sidelines against the Los Angeles Clippers in game six of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
May 14, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Houston Rockets head coach Kevin McHale watches from the sidelines against the Los Angeles Clippers in game six of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports /

The Final Four begins with a matchup between two big men

The Hardwood Houdini Tournament started with 32 players, and now we’re down to four. The first Final Four matchup is between two of the best big men in NBA history, Bill Russell and Kevin McHale. The winner moves on to the Hardwood Houdini Championship later this week and will face the winner of Larry Bird and Paul Pierce.

Don’t forget that this is based solely off their playing careers with the Boston Celtics. Any coaching or front office experience shouldn’t be taken into account, neither should their collegiate careers or any other NBA teams they may have played for.

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Bill Russell and Kevin McHale dominated the NBA in different eras and in different ways. Bill Russell was arguably the best center of his time, leading the Boston Celtics to 11 championships in 13 years.

On the other hand, McHale played alongside several other Hall of Famers, including Larry Bird, which made him get lost in the mix at times. McHale never reached the heights of Larry Bird, however he is still considered the best sixth man of all-time by many. He started just 400 of 971 career games, yet he made seven All-Star teams and was a part of three championship teams, as well.

While both dominated the competition, they had very different styles of play. Russell is still considered one of the best defensive and rebounding centers the game has ever seen. Defensive stats weren’t recorded when he played, therefore all we have are his godly rebounding numbers to grasp the type of dominating center he was.

He averaged 22.5 rebounds per game in his career, including 10 straight seasons of at least 20-plus rebounds per night. Plus, Russell led the league in rebounding five times over Hall of Fame center Wilt Chamberlain. Russell was a decent offensive player, however there’s no doubt that he made his mark on the other end.

He did average 15.1 points per game over 13 seasons, and topped 15 points per night seven times, but his offensive arsenal doesn’t compare to McHale’s torture chamber.

There have been plenty of great low-post scorers in NBA history, but none compare to McHale. The torture chamber is a nickname given to McHale’s deadly post game. He made a name for himself in the NBA by being an efficient scorer. He shot a career 55.4 percent and only failed to shoot at least 50 percent once, during his final season with Boston at the age of 35.

McHale also led the league two straight seasons by shooting 60.4 percent from the field. Sure, his post game and foot work is still watched by many with amazement, but McHale was one of the best all-around offensive big men the league has ever seen. The attraction that Bird and other Hall of Famers garnered helped create opportunities for him, but there’s no way to look past 17.9 points per game and 20.7 points per 36 minutes.

Besides, when McHale started he averaged 23.2 points per night compared to just 16.3 when he came off the bench. He was effective either way, but it’s still interesting to think about the numbers he could have put up if he was a go-to player or starter throughout his entire career.

McHale wasn’t a bad rebounder or defender, either. He blocked two-plus shots per game five times and averaged two blocks per 36 minutes. Plus, a solid 8.5 rebounds and 2.8 offensive boards per 36 minutes. He put up solid numbers on the glass, but they dwindle in comparison to what Russell put up.

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Sure, Russell played in a different era but, either way, they’re mind-boggling statistics to look at. The fact that he averaged 29.9 rebounds per game during the 1960-61 playoffs is one of the most amazing basketball stats, no matter the era. Also, Russell has three of the top-five best single game rebounding performances in NBA history. He brought down 51 rebounds in one game in 1960 and 49 rebounds two other times.

Final Four matchups in anything is difficult because the options are always so good. On one hand, Bill Russell has an NBA record 11 championships and is arguably the best defensive and rebounding center the game has ever seen.

On the other hand, Kevin McHale owned arguably the best foot work in NBA history and was a beast on offense and as a shot blocker.

McHale started his career just a decade after Bill Russell retired. They played in different eras, with different players and styles of play. The similarity between the two though, is that they both dominated every night and every season for the Boston Celtics.

Don’t forget to vote on Twitter @HoudiniCeltics! The poll is up for 20 hours. Comments on here don’t count as votes, only the poll on Twitter will be looked at to determine who goes on to the Final Four.

Next: Jae Crowder is the Most Important Celtic

Also, look at tomorrow’s match-up to see the results from today’s showdown.