Bill Russell, the heart and soul of the Boston Celtics dynasty of the 1950s and 1960s, passed away on Sunday. He was the ultimate NBA champion, one of basketball’s best players, a perfect teammate, and a voice for social justice. He was 88.
William Felton Russell had one goal when playing basketball: to win. And he did everything necessary to do it, including scoring, grabbing rebounds, passing, and defending.
Russell had the best winning record. With the Celtics, he won 11 championships, including eight straight. Before 1969, there was no MVP of the Finals. Today, he gets honoured with the Finals MVP award.
At the 2014 installation of his monument at Boston’s City Hall, Russell noted, “I played a team game, and the only significant statistic was who won the game. So, I’d always give my teammates a big thank you for allowing me assist them win championships. There are some accomplishments of mine. For instance, I never had the most points for the Celtics. You should be the team’s leading scorer, I overheard players from rival teams saying. So I would check the whereabouts of their crew.
“The final score is the only significant statistic while playing a team game. Even though I could have four points some nights, it wouldn’t matter if we won the game.
He “died away peacefully today at age 88, with his wife, Jeannine, at his side,” according to a tweet announcing his death.
Bill Russell, according to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, “was the greatest champion in all of team sports.” The record 11 titles and five MVP awards that Bill won during his illustrious career with the Boston Celtics merely scratch the surface of his huge influence on our league and society as a whole.
From 1957 until 1969, the Celtics became a dynasty thanks to Russell’s competitiveness. With point guard Bob Cousy leading the league in assists and a fast-paced style of play, the club had been competitive for five seasons. But it was Russell’s acquisition that made them champs.
Russell, who stands 6 feet 9 inches tall, is slim, quick, and focused on defence and rebounding for the Celtics. When he successfully blocked a shot or secured a defensive rebound, he instantly passed to Cousy to initiate a run that resulted in simple baskets. Because of Russell’s dominance inside, Boston created and honed this technique.
Russell altered how clubs approached defence. He could come across the lane to block shots or abandon his man to pursue a player who was driving on offence. Because they knew they had him in the centre, his Celtics colleagues started acting more aggressively outside of the paint because of how excellent he was.
For his entire career, Russell averaged 22.5 rebounds and 15.1 points. He was renowned for outlasting fellow big man Wilt Chamberlain in most of their face-offs in the 1960s. Even though Chamberlain consistently put up greater stats, Russell’s side typically won. In the 1960 and 1962 playoffs, Russell and the Celtics defeated Chamberlain’s Philadelphia Warriors. In the 1964 finals, they defeated the San Francisco Warriors. In the 1965, 1966, and 1968 playoffs, they defeated the Philadelphia 76ers. In the 1969 finals, they defeated the Los Angeles Lakers. The lone playoff game Chamberlain won over Russell came with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1967.
The Greatest Live Within Our Hearts
Russell is one of only four NBA players who have won an Olympic gold medal, an NCAA title, and an NBA championship. At the University of San Francisco, he won two collegiate championships (1955 and 1956), as well as the gold medal in Melbourne, Australia, in 1956.
He was a 12-time All-Star and five times the NBA’s Most Valuable Player.