In 2009, the late great NBA commissioner David Stern announced the trophy given to the MVP of the finals would be named after NBA legend Bill Russell. Interestingly, Russell never won the finals MVP award even though he won 11 NBA championships. However, the Celtics from that era had a fantastic team stacked with HOF players who, despite their individual qualities, played like a team, and Russell was their leader.
In an interview, Russell shared how he didn’t know the trophy would be named after him and told him only an hour before it was announced, which was somewhat a surprise. However, something that is truly remarkable and at the same time showcases how great Stern was is that he did tell Russell’s wife about it a few weeks earlier. At that time, his wife was terminally sick, and everyone knew she didn’t have long, so Stern wanted to make sure she knows the MVP trophy would carry her husband’s name.
I heard it about an hour before. They kept it away from me, and my wife has just died, and David was sensitive enough that he called her five or six weeks before and told her they would going to do that, but she would not to tell me. That was one of the nicest things that I can imagine happening to our family. I think everybody but me knew she was dying, and I was moved by that. It was really great, almost overwhelming, and I am too egoistic to be overwhelmed.Bill Russell, via NBA
Russell will forever be remembered as an ultimate competitor, the most outstanding defensive force in NBA history, and a true leader of a dynasty that dominated the NBA for over a decade. It’s also inspiring to hear how David Stern approached the delicate situation by actually knowing what is going with his family and his wife, who only had a few weeks left in this world. A legend like Russell deserves to have the finals MVP trophy named after him because of his incredible contribution to the sport and the NBA as a league.