When you discuss All-Time NBA legends, the name Bill Russell should automatically be a part of the conversation because he is one of the most prolific winners in sports history. During his 13-year career with the Boston Celtics, Russell was the cornerstone of a team that went to the NBA Finals 12 times, won 11 championships, and became one of the first sports team organizations to be labeled as a dynasty. On Sunday, July 31, with his wife Jeannine by his side, the NBA legend peacefully passed away.
Bill Russell was born in West Monroe, Louisiana, but his family moved to Oakland, California, when he was eight years old. He had a disappointing start in the sport of basketball as he was cut from his junior high school team. His coach acknowledged Russell was a raw talent who possessed unlimited potential. The coach advised Russell to work on the fundamentals of basketball. Russell proceeded to work on enhancing his defense and rebounding skills. Courtesy of hard work and dedication, Russell’s game improved. Once his high school career came to a close, Bill Russell didn’t have many scholarship offers. The University of San Francisco took a chance on him, and the gamble paid off as Russell helped USF win back-to-back National Championships in 1955 and 1956.
Russell’s ability to rebound and defend helped him gain the interest of the Boston Celtics, who decided to draft him. Before joining the Celtics, Russell competed in the 1956 Summer Olympics and won a gold medal. As an NBA rookie with the Boston Celtics, he averaged 14.7 points and 19.6 rebounds per game in route to helping the Celtics win the NBA championship.
Russell continued to grow as a basketball player and became known as an excellent defender, intimidating shot blocker, and dominant rebounder. His contributions as a player served as a key component to the Celtics success. From 1959 to 1966, the Celtics won eight championships in a row. In addition to being a champion on the court, Russell was also a champion when it came to the civil rights movement. In 1961 he led a player protest when Celtic players were denied service in a Lexington, Kentucky restaurant. He also participated in the March to Washington in 1963, and in 1967 along with Jim Brown and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Russell showed his support for Muhammad Ali. At the time, Ali was facing a ban from boxing due to his refusal to be drafted into the Vietnam War.
In modern-day basketball, we refer to Michael Jordan and LeBron James as being the two GOATs of basketball. The one definitive achievement Bill Russell has over both of them is based on the two NBA championships he won as a player-coach. Russell was the NBA’s first Black head coach. He was a player coach for the Boston Celtics from 1966 to 1969.
When you mention Bill Russell, it’s hard not to mention the name Wilt Chamberlain because these two all-time greats had one of the most polarizing rivalries in the history of the NBA. Wilt held the edge in productivity, but Bill won nine more titles and held an 85-57 record in the head-to-head matchups.
When you say All-Time NBA greats, you have no choice but to say the name, Bill Russell. He had a career average of 15.1 points and 22.5 rebounds per game. He’s an 11-time NBA champion, 5- time NBA Most Valuable Player, 12-time NBA All-Star, the first player to record over 50 rebounds in one game, 4-time NBA rebounding champion, was elected to the NBA Hall of Fame in 1975, he was elected as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history in 1996, and in 2011 President Barack Obama awarded Russell the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Bill Russell is the epitome of the word legend, and on July 31, 2022, the world lost a great person and an NBA pioneer.
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