Skip to main content

What Bill Russell misses most about Wilt - "That's the one thing we never talked about"


Larry and Magic might've saved the league, but Bill and Wilt made it. Without them, there would not be anything to save. Two things grow a sport in popularity - a juggernaut everyone is chasing and a great rivalry. The 1960s had both. Everyone was trying to beat Bill's Celtics, and his personal rivalry with Wilt made their matchups a must-see battle.

"Not understood"

They battled on the court and openly criticized each other about their game, but Wilt and Russ respected and appreciated each other as no one else could. Like MJ and Chuck or Carmelo and LeBron, there are not many people who can relate to being a basketball superstar. That makes the list of people that can become your friend and understand what you're going through very short. When asked about Wilt being misunderstood, Russell made a small but crucial distinction.

I like to think of it not as being misunderstood, but not understood. But there's no reason anyone should understand him (because they can't be and see the world from where he stood.)

Bill Russell, Charlie Rose (via Universe Galaxy)

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

Russell could. So no wonder Bill would spend the night at Wilts the night before the game in Philly. It's only natural they were friends. That friendship only grew after their playing days were over. Bill shared an intimate moment he had with Wilt's nephews.

After he died, I went to his memorial service in Los Angeles. His nephews came up to me and said 'I think I want to tell you this. I was cleaning up my uncle's desk, and he had a stack of notes of people he's gonna call. Your name was on the top of the list.' He would call and we would rant and rave about the cosmos.

Bill Russell, Charlie Rose (via Universe Galaxy)

Unfortunately, Wilt never made that call or any other from that list. Russell shared he lost something special with Wilt passing by. Charlie Rose went down the lane of facing his mortality, but Bill dismissed that. Because of their rivalry, Wilt was a big part of Bill's identity. Almost every fan interaction Russell had in his life started with mentioning Wilt Chamberlain. They were joined at the hip in all our minds. It would always end up with the most predictable conversation - who's better?

I must've heard it, without exaggeration, 50,000 times. 'I watched you on Sunday television,' and people made judgment on which one they thought was the best. I never got into who was the best [with Wilt]. In fact, that was the one thing he and I, over a thousand conversations, never discussed.

Bill Russell, Charlie Rose (via Universe Galaxy)

I'm sure they threw jabs at each other all the time. But I don't doubt they never had an actual discussion about who was the better player. Both guys had more than enough conversations and heard opinions on that topic. They understood basketball gave them a lot, but there was a lot more to them and their lives than the game. Russell summed it up best himself.

Marcus Smart’s importance to the Boston Celtics is becoming hard to overlook

Marcus Smart’s importance to the Boston Celtics is becoming hard to overlook

Smart has always been a solid defensive player, but his offensive strides have allowed him to become the player the Celtics need

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard and Robert Horry

Robert Horry explains why Damian Lillard is the greatest clutch player in history

Putting Jordan in the fifth spot is enough to get Horry in trouble.

NBA commissioner David Stern and Chicago Bulls forward Dennis Rodman

When David Stern threatened to kick Dennis Rodman out of the league for having too many tattoos

Rodman's reaction tells you everything you need to know about The Worm.

Team Lebron forward Lebron James of the Los Angeles Lakers and guard Dwayne Wade

Dwyane Wade says that God gave LeBron James everything except a robust hairline

Dwyane Wade believes God was fair enough to take one thing away from LeBron James.

Charles Barkley and Golden State Warriors fans

”I hate their fans” — Charles Barkley expands on the “fu*k your mama” moment with Golden State Warriors fans

Sir Charles made an important distinction that makes him unique. He understands trash-talking is a two-way street.