William Felton "Bill" Russell (born February 12, 1934) is a retired American professional basketball player who played center for the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association. A 5 time winner of the Most Valuable Player Award and a 12 time All-Star, Russell was the centerpiece of the Celtics dynasty that won 11 NBA Championships.
He has never visited the Basketball Hall of Fame, where he was the first black N.B.A. player enshrined
Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics teams he led stand alone as the ultimate winners. Fourteen times in Russell's career it came down to one game, win you must, or lose and go home. Fourteen times the team with Bill Russell on it won.
Former teammate Don Nelson once said of Russell, "There are two types of superstars. One makes himself look good at the expense of the other guys on the floor. But there's another type who makes the players around him look better than they are, and that's the type Russell was."
His on court legacy can be defined in three words; Defense wins championships. Before Russell brought his defensive and shot blocking skills to basketball, the game focused primarily on offense. He was arguably the greatest defensive center in the history of basketball.
I would never consider myself the Celtic leader. I am just guy who played there and enjoyed it. I am a fan of course, but I would never consider myself in that role.
In 1965, after Chamberlain signed a deal for $100,000 a year, Russell threatened to retire if the Celtics didn't up his salary one dollar higher to $100,001.
Russell's head-to-head battles with Wilt Chamberlain in the 1950s and 1960s are legendary. In their first highly anticipated showdown on Nov. 7, 1959, Russell grabbed an amazing 35 rebounds and Boston won 115-106.
his play was marked by the most extraordinary intensity. If he threw up before a big game, the Celtics were sure everything would be all right. If he didn't, then Boston's coach, Red Auerbach, would tell Russell to go back to the toilet
Following another NBA Championship in 1965-66, Red Auerbach retired, and Russell took over as player-coach the following season, becoming the first African-American coach in the league.
During Russell’s career with the Celtics — in which he led them to 11 championships in 13 years — he was the target of vile, racist attacks and defended himself against hatemongers.
The way Russell did it — subverting individual success for the glory of team triumph — was as important to his legacy as what he managed to accomplish. “It’s amazing how we can talk about who’s the greatest player,” says Celtics coach Doc Rivers, “but there’s no argument about who’s the greatest winner.”
Bill Russell was the cornerstone of the Boston Celtics' dynasty of the 1960s, an uncanny shotblocker who revolutionized NBA defensive concepts. A five-time NBA Most Valuable Player and a 12-time All-Star, the angular center amassed 21,620 career rebounds
After college, he captained the U.S. basketball team that won gold by defeating the Soviet Union at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. Following the Olympics, the 6’9” Russell joined the Boston Celtics in December 1956.
“I was an innovator,” Russell said. “I started blocking shots although I had never seen a shots blocked before that. The first time I did that in a game, my coach called timeout and said, ‘No good defensive player ever leaves his feet.’ ”
"We changed the game," Russell told SI's Frank Deford in a recent interview. "I think you can even say we developed a whole new philosophy of basketball. We attacked the offense and made it react to the defense."
to win the National Championship in both his junior (1954-1955) and senior (1955-1956) seasons, including a stretch of 55 consecutive victories, culminating with the National Championship in his last game for the Dons.
the USF team, with Russell as captain, was the first to feature three African Americans in a starting line-up. Crowds on the road, and even at home in San Francisco, were sometimes vocally hostile toward Russell and his teammates.
As a child, Russell’s family moved from Louisiana to California to escape racism in the South. He played center for McClymonds High School in Oakland, California, and earned an athletic scholarship to the University of San Francisco.
Russell defended the way Picasso painted, the way Hemingway wrote: in time, he changed how people understood the craft. Until Russell, the game stayed close to the floor.