HH Tournament Championship: (1) Bill Russell vs (1) Larry Bird

May 16, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird announces Nate McMillan as the new head coach during a press conference at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
May 16, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird announces Nate McMillan as the new head coach during a press conference at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports /

The Hardwood Houdini Tournament has reached the Final

From 32 players down to two. The whole time everyone was anticipating this potential Championship matchup between Bill Russell and Larry Bird. The time is finally here to decide who the greatest player in Boston Celtics history is.

This time the poll will be up for 40 hours, with the winner being announced on Thursday, September 15. The preview of the matchup will consist of reasons why each player should win.

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.

Bill Russell – 1975 Hall of Fame Inductee

15.1 PPG, 22.5 RPG, 4.3 APG

13 seasons with Boston, 11x Champion, 12x All-Star, 5x MVP, #6 Retired by Celtics

Defeated: (16) Isaiah Thomas, (9) Rajon Rondo, (5) Robert Parish, (3) Kevin McHale

Forget all the flashy stats and plays that athletes make, the goal of sports is to win, and no one in NBA history did that better than Bill Russell. The center out of San Francisco won the championship as a rookie and never looked back. Russell went on to win an astounding 11 titles in 13 years, making the Finals in one of the two years he didn’t win it.

There has never been a bigger winner in NBA history. Russell proved that not only by winning 11 titles throughout his career, but by also winning every title except for one during the 1960s. It took a ridiculous season by Wilt Chamberlain to dethrone Russell.

Russell didn’t just win, he led the teams that won championship after championship. Still regarded as the greatest defensive center of all-time by many, Russell led the league in defensive win shares 11 times in his career, including 10 consecutive years at one point. Even during his final season when he was 34-years-old Russell owned 9.9 defensive win shares, leading the league.

Sadly we don’t know how many blocks he recorded during his career, but it’s safe to say that it’s probably a godly number just like the amount of rebounds he pulled down. In an era where Chamberlain also ruled the hardwood, Russell still managed to lead the league in rebounds per game five times.

He had 10 consecutive seasons in which he grabbed at least 20 rebounds per night and averaged an amazing 19.1 rebounds per 36 minutes. Not to mention that Russell owns three of the top four single game rebounding marks in NBA history. In 1960, Russell pulled down an outer-worldly 51 rebounds in a single game. He also had games in which he recorded 49 (twice), 43, 41 (twice), and 40 (five times) rebounds.

Simply put, there will never be a center who dominates the glass and defensive end of the court like Russell did. Plus, he was a reliable scorer. He wasn’t a three-point shooter like big men are today, however he still averaged 15.1 points per game over his career, only failing to average a double-double once in his career.

Sure, it was a different era. You could easily tell that by seeing that Russell led the league in minutes per game once and averaged at least 40 minutes 10 times. It doesn’t take away from the fact that he made the Boston Celtics utterly unstoppable during the late 1950s and entire 1960s.

Russell won more than anyone ever has, rebounded as well as anyone ever has, is arguably the best rim protector of all-time, and he won. You can’t ask anything more from your center.

Larry Bird – 1998 Hall of Fame Inductee

24.3 PPG, 10 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.7 SPG

13 Seasons with Boston, 3x Champion, 12x All-Star, Rookie of the Year, 3x MVP, #33 Retired by Celtics

Defeated: (16) Kendrick Perkins, (8) Tom Sanders, (4) Kevin Garnett, (3) Paul Pierce

There have been great scorers, passers, rebounders and defenders in NBA history, but very few players are able to put all those skill sets together. That’s what made Larry Bird so unique and legendary. Playing alongside multiple Hall of Famers during his prime, he adjusted his game to fit the style of play that would best benefit the Celtics.

He scored at least 20 points per game in all but one season, passed as well as any small forward in NBA history and ranks 45th all-time in rebounds per game. Averaging a double-double with rebounds is rare for a single season when it comes to small forwards, let alone throughout an entire career.

Digging deeper than just per game averages really shows the type of impact Larry Bird had. He led the league in offensive win shares during the 1984-85 season, but also led the league in defensive win shares four times during his career, including in each of his first two seasons.

Very few players can play at an elite level on both ends of the floor. It makes his immense amount of win shares that he racked up throughout his carer even more impressive. Plus, he made 10 All-NBA Teams and three All-Defensive Teams, with all three All-Defensive Teams coming in the same season he made an All-NBA Team.

The craziest thing about Bird, though, is that he could have scored even more during his career if he played in the NBA today. Bird is a notoriously great three-point shooter. He shot 37.6 percent from deep during his career, had six seasons in which he topped 40 percent from deep, and won the first ever three-point contest.

Although, the three-point shot wasn’t used as much in the 1980s. Bird averaged fewer than two threes per game during his career and only topped three three-point attempts per contest three times. In fact, he led the league in threes during the 1985-86 season, only needing to attempt 194 on the year. Bird also led the league in made threes during two seasons, and it only took 82 and 90 threes, a far cry from the 400-plus Steph Curry made.

The excellence of LeBron James has somewhat made us forget about how great of a player Larry Bird is. He did everything on the basketball court and some. He made three-point shooting sexy, rebounded as well as any small forward in NBA history, and his defensive prowess matched his offensive skill set.

Three championships doesn’t match Bill Russell’s dominance, however Bird was as complete of a player as anyone in NBA history.

Don’t forget to vote on Twitter @HoudiniCeltics! The poll is up for 40 hours. Comments on here don’t count as votes, only the poll on Twitter will be looked at.

Next: Boston Celtics: Could R.J. Hunter See Playing Time?

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