The 2014 NBA Finals tip off Thursday night with Game 1 between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs. NBA.com asked Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell to offer his thoughts on the matchup and he reflected on Boston's run of titles:
It might seem strange but I did not know our Celtic teams won eight championships in a row until about 20 years ago when I read about it in a game program. Our focus was always on that particular season, always one year at a time. The year we played had nothing to do with the previous year or the next year. That's just the way it was.
Now, I don't know if Miami is thinking about winning three in a row. In the NBA Finals, there's pressure and you always see how players react to the pressure. For some guys, it makes them a step slower while for other guys, it makes them a step faster. I like to watch to see how teams react to the pressure because for the really great players, there isn't any pressure, you just go out and play.
While fans, media and even some former players like to compare great teams with other great teams from different eras, it's just not practical. The game today is a different game than when I played or even when George Mikan played. For example, you were not allowed to play zone defense and today, everyone plays a zone. On the Celtics, we had seven players who averaged double figures. Today's good teams have only three. In my 13 years, the Celtics never had a player who led the league in scoring. As a result, when someone retired, it allowed another player to step into that slot, which enabled for a high level of consistency.
It's a different game, which requires different skills. So, I could not legitimately compare these teams today with any of my teams nor can I compare myself to any of the players today. It's still called basketball but it's applied differently.