Bill Russell – Lord of the Rings

Bill Russell – Lord of the Rings

He is the undisputed cornerstone of the legendary Celtics dynasty and one of the most dominant players of all time. Bill Russell not only revolutionized the center position but also set new standards in the fight against racism. While his longtime rival could hardly have been more contrasting, his relationship with the city of Boston remained a difficult one for a long time. Today, the Celtics legend is 85 years old.

I hope that the children in Boston will one day look up to his statue and see not only the player but especially the man Bill Russell.” None other than the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, addressed these warm words to the former Celtics star.

The official occasion was the presentation of the “Presidential Medal of Freedom” the highest civilian award in the US. This certainly not everyday tribute illustrates very clearly that Bill Russell is anything but a “normal” NBA legend. Born in Louisiana in 1934, William Felton Russell shaped the league in the sixties not only as a sportsman but above all as a political figure like no other.

Bill Russell: Eleven titles in thirteen years

On the court, Russell will be remembered for his incredible title series. In his thirteen active years in the league, all with the Celtics, the center celebrated no fewer than eleven championships alongside other great players such as John Havlicek and Bob Cousy. The last two titles even as a player-coach. An unbeatable record to date.

In this rush of victory, it is not surprising that nine former Celtics players appear in the eternal top ten of most title wins. With all due respect to the historical achievement, Russell and his teammates should not be ignored due to the fact the league at the time consisted of only ten teams.

Nevertheless, one can hardly overestimate the importance of Russell. Before the graduate of the University of San Francisco came to Boston in 1956, the Celtics did not have a single piece of silver in their trophy cabinet. And this despite some promising players and the legendary coach Red Auerbach.

The fact that the Celtics recognized in Russell their future franchise player early on shows how the 2.08-meter man even reached Beantown. Originally drafted second by the St. Louis Hawks, Auerbach made every effort to sign up his favorite player. The Celtics gave Cliff Hagan and Ed Macauley for the then 22-year-old from, but the daring deal paid off already with the first title win in 1957.

Although the center averaged over 15 points during his career, his assault arsenal was too manageable to dominate any offensive play at will. Also, he had no reliable jumper in the repertoire and also wobbled from the free throw line.

Although the center averaged over 15 points during his career, his assault arsenal was too manageable to dominate any offensive play at will. Also, he had no reliable jumper in the repertoire and also wobbled from the free throw line.

Bill Russell: Monster Blocker and Quarterback

Russell revolutionized the game even more so at the other end of the court. As a defensive anchor of the Celtics, he cleared almost everything under the boards which came to him. Ten seasons in a row, Russell secured more than 20 rebounds on average. The finals sweep of 1959 against the Lakers saw an unbelievable 30 rebounds per game.

He also set new standards when blocking shots. Although this category was statistically unclear in the sixties, eyewitnesses report that Russell regularly blocked ten to fifteen attempts per game. Not in a spectacular way, as we know it today, by throwing the balls into the audience.

Russell was always trying to accelerate the game, trying to get his blocks straight to one of his teammates. Not only was it the rock in the Celtics surf, but it was also a kind of quarterback when it came to instantly initiate the dreaded fast breaks of the Celtics. Even his dribbling was extraordinary for a player of his size.

However, besides all his qualities on the basketball court, Russell was above all a born leader and arguably the best and most popular team player ever in the history of the sport. “There are two types of superstars, one trying to make him look good, even if the team suffers, and the other one who is able to make each player significantly better. Russell has belonged to the latter group,” described Don Nelson, his former teammate.

Russell was the prototype of a downright-obsessed professional, always shouting out his best achievements when his team needed him most. His flawless 10-0 record in crucial fifth or seventh games is no coincidence. His excessive ambition was also clear from the fact that he had to vomit regularly before important games.

Russell witnessed his jersey being hoisted under the roof of the newly constructed TD Garden in 1999. The fact that the finals MVP trophy has been named by him since 2009 proves his prominent place in NBA history.

Russell witnessed his jersey being hoisted under the roof of the newly constructed TD Garden in 1999. The fact that the finals MVP trophy has been named by him since 2009 proves his prominent place in NBA history.

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Still got the fire!

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No later than next year, a large Russell monument will decorate the Boston City Hall Plaza. A life-size bronze Russell, eleven artworks for eleven championships. Certainly, the children from Boston will not ignore such a monument.