Bill Russell is one of the greatest players to ever grace the hardwood of the NBA. His 11 titles, six NBA MVP awards and 12 All-Star appearances attest to that.
Hassan Whiteside has only played 60 games in the league and only recently returned, courtesy of a deal with the Miami Heat, after a two season break where he couldn't find a team.
The next Russell?
There may be a chasm between the two players in terms of achievements but, such is Whiteside's rise to stardom this campaign, one of Russell's former Celtics teammates has today made the astonishing claim that the Heat star is the first to remind him of the NBA legend.
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Bob Cousy won six titles playing alongside Bill Russell for the Celtics and he clearly believes the Miami phenom shares a very similar style.
"I have never said this in the 40 years since I retired," Cousy told Yahoo! Sports this week. "But he is the first big guy, not [Patrick] Ewing, [Hakeem] Olajuwon, Shaq, who reminds me defensively and on the boards of Russell."
"He runs the floor well, he has excellent timing, he blocks shots and keeps them in play the way Russell did," continued Cousy.
Rise to stardom
Whiteside was out in the NBA wilderness before the Miami Heat came calling back in November 2014.
Since then he has emerged as one of the stars of the team in this a turbulent season for the Heat. Averaging 11 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in just over 22 minutes of action per game, the 25-year-old's tenacity and skill have impressed onlookers the league over.
And he's not just a flash in the pan, according to the Celtics legend at least.
"I don't get excited too often about these guys...but this kid looks like a turn-around guy. This kid moves to every rebound, he just reacts to everything on the defensive boards and he reacts the way Russell did. He leaves his man and comes over to help."
"He'll block five or six shots a game and he catches them. The league hasn't caught up with him yet."
While many NBA fans (Lakers and Knicks fans in particular) may be flabbergasted by the idea that Whiteside has shown more than the likes of Shaq or Ewing, Miami Heat fans should be delighted to hear such high praise.
In truth though, while Bill Russell's face would adorn virtually anyone's NBA Mount Rushmore, Hassan Whiteside has a long way to before he can be talked about in the same breath as those that have gone before him.
To his credit, the Heat star remained humble when told about the Celtics man's comments.
"Everybody knows that Bill Russell is probably one of the best shot blockers that ever lived. That's really a big honor that he thinks of me that way."
What do you think NBA fans? Are these comments simply crazy? And Heat fans, how would you rate Whiteside's season? Let us know in the comments section below...
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