When sportswriters assess a players career, they tend to judge him by the number of championships or titles won. This is perfectly logical when it comes to individual sports. Thus the yardstick for tennis players or golfers is the number of majors or Grand Slams won.
It is when the same criteria is applied to team sports that I feel it doesn’t make any sense. No matter how good a player is, if he plays on a weak team he has little chance of winning a title. In such cases, should his accomplishments be downplayed, his resume somehow deemed incomplete ? I don’t think so.
The case that most often comes to mind is that of Wilt Chamberlain. Chamberlain won two titles during his fabled career and is considered a lesser player than Bill Russell who won 11 titles during the same period, often going head -to-head with Chamberlain. Conveniently forgotten is the fact Russell was surrounded by a plethora of All Stars , many of whom made it to the Hall of Fame . Bob Cousy, Bill Sharman, K.C. Jones, John Havelicek, Tommy Heinsohn, Satch Sanders, Sam Jones and Don Nelson, among others gave him by far the better supporting cast. Excepting late in their careers when Chamberlain played with Elgin Baylor and Jerry West for the Lakers, Russell had better team mates. I give full credit to Russell for playing Chamberlain very tough, even though he was giving away 5inches and about 40 lbs.( particularly since he had to play him one-on-one, zone defenses not being permissible) . However, the disparity in the number of championships won merely means that the Celtics were the better team, not that Russell was the superior player. Yes, Russell was probably a better defensive player and he had an indomitable desire to win but in every statistical category Chamberlain was streets ahead.
Many great players played on inferior teams or had the misfortune to play at the same time as an all time great. For instance, Karl Malone and John Stockton were great players who never won a championship because they were up against the Michael Jordan led Chicago Bulls. Does that make them lesser players in any way ? In baseball, is Alex Rodriguez any less a player because his teams have never won the world series ? And what about Barry Sanders in football ? Including reserves, there are 24 other players on a baseball team, 44 others on a football team ; there is only so much one player, however great, can do.
When talking about Michael Jordan’s greatness, many speak of his having won six championships.To me , this statistic is irrelevant. He didn’t win six world titles; he was a member of the Chicago Bulls who won six titles. His greatness should be measured by his individual statistics and his style of play, not by the number of championships. Robert Horry has won seven championships with three different teams but would anyone in his right mind say that he is better than MJ ? Case closed.
To sum up, in individual sports the number of championships won is a reasonable yardstick to measure greatness. In team sports, it is not ; statistics ( points, rebounds, assists/ Batting average, Homeruns, hits,games won, ERA/ yards gained, catches made , interceptions, sacks/ goals, assists etc) are truer indicators.