Happy Birthday!! Bill Russell !!
Written By Kevin Bertalotto, February 12th, 2018
Today is the 84th birthday of one of the greatest Boston Celtics and NBA legends of all time. Too many so called fans of the game don’t give 60s players or anyone prior to Magic and Bird enough credit. So I will give some background information on Mr. Russell the 11x NBA champ then share some thoughts on him.
Growing up in the 1930s was difficult especially being colored. Bill was the type of guy who was very outspoken that would motivate himself and his peers to stand up against racism. He was in the famous march on Washington and defended Muhammad Ali when he refused to serve in the military. As expected Mr. Russell had been promoting the Civil Rights Movement.
Bill Russell during high school basketball games started to jump and block shots, his coach tried to stop him but Bill knowing how great the idea was didn’t listen. He led his high school team to 3 straight titles and got a scholarship to the University of San Francisco where he played with future teammate K.C. Jones. In college he won two consecutive national titles and won several awards including MVP of the Final Four. Interestingly Russell has said before he averaged at least 15 blocks in college. Scoring over 20 points and roughly 20 rebs including a large number of blocks per game everyone knew he’d be high pick.
Now onto his amazing NBA career, in his first season he led his team to its first ever title in 1957 averaging 13 and 23 rebs. He went on to win 10 more titles in 12 years. Bill is 10-0 in Game 7s, 11-1 in the NBA Finals and the time he lost a Finals series was vs Bob Pettit’s Hawks and didn’t play the last few games due to a hurt ankle. Although they didn’t keep track of blocks back then, of all the games and highlights on YouTube of Bill we can see how great he was as a rim protector and how many fast breaks he ignited. You can find this video where Russell blocks Jerry West EIGHT TIMES IN THE SAME GAME.
When it comes to resumes alone Bill Russell has got to be top 5, 5x MVP, 1x ASG MVP woulda been at least 8x FMVP if that award existed then, at least 5x DPOY had that award existed then, 2nd all time in rebounds per game and total, 12x All Star, was always first in defensive win shares. Won gold in the Olympics and was captain of that team.
Would this all time great avg the same stats in today’s game? No. However in the right team like San Antonio he could still grab 15 or so rebounds per game along with 3 blocks or so a game. His scoring avg was low but that wasn’t his role. Fans seem to forget how athletic he was, he did track and field and had a vertical leap in the low 40s.
- The Finals MVP award is named after him.
- Was coach while playing for BOS for a bit.
- Received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.
- Was head coach for the Sacramento Kings for one year.
- Coach and general manager of the Supersonics from 1973-1977.
- Wrote several books including Red, and Me: My Coach, My Lifelong Friend.