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Why Bill Russell refused to sign autographs


After the NBA game ends, every player has to walk past dozens of fans cheering and hoping to get something signed by their basketball idols. Their reaction is most often dependent on their performance. Most often than not, you’ll see them just walking by with their heads held down. However, occasional interaction will occur, and some lucky fans will get the everlasting memory of basketball’s finest.

If you want to maximize your chance of getting something signed by an NBA player, sending your kid may be your best bet. Not that there is a demographic breakdown of fans that NBA players interact with the most, but it sure seems that kids are the ones to who NBA players have a hard time saying no to.

Nevertheless, signing autographs and interacting with fans is in NBA players’ job description. Whether they like it or not, it’s something they have to do. And most of them like it, at least that’s the impression I’m getting. It’s a way of showing appreciation for their fans and reminiscing on times they were the ones in the stands, hoping to get something signed by their NBA idols. The very few that don’t like it, do it anyway. Like I said, it’s in their job description.

One NBA legend had a unique approach when it came to interactions with fans. 11x NBA champ Bill Rusell wanted to make those interactions much more personal instead of him simply putting ink onto a piece of paper. Or whatever they wanted to be signed.

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I don't believe in autographs. Let's have a cup of coffee instead.

Bill Russell

Russell went so far that he would rather spend 10-15 minutes explaining to people why he wouldn’t sign something for them than taking 5 seconds and getting it over with. He stuck to his approach and had no problem actually meeting people who sought an autograph from him.

If a fan doesn't want to have a chat with you, he was going to sell that autograph anyway

Bill Russell

Otherwise, he’d seen it as a financial transaction, which eventually had him stopped signing them. Russell was the type who had doubts about people’s intentions and didn’t want someone using him for his popularity. That’s why he offered a simple solution: you won’t get anything signed by him, but you will get 15 minutes of coffee time with one of the greatest to ever play the game. I bet he would’ve even paid for the coffee.

Now tell me, what would you choose? Having something signed by your NBA idol, or actually sitting with the guy, developing some sort of relationship with him? I know what my choice would’ve been, and you can’t put a price on such an experience.

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