RIP Bill Russell

loshjott

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Dec 30, 2004
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Fantastic post, and I mean FANTASTIC post. Thank you.

Regarding the Celtics picking Russell second, I read this morning that after trading up for that pick, they wanted to trade again up to #1 to be able to take Russell. The owner of the Rochester team who had that pick refused saying he'd be run out of town if he traded it. Red got Walter Brown to call the Rochester owner and offer him the Ice Capades (owned by Brown) for a week in his arena if he didn't pick Russell. He didn't, the Celtics did, and the rest is history.

Edit: that anecdote is from John Feinstein's tribute this morning.
 

Dotrat

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Bill Russell doesn't get enough credit for being arguably the biggest game-changing player in the history of team sports; perhaps only rivaled by Babe Ruth. Before Bill Russell, basketball was a floor-bound game, dominated by slower, plodding guys who couldn't jump over a phone book but were very tall, like George Mikan or Neil Johnston. That was basketball, a game that shunned athleticism in favor of height and not-so-consequently, shunned Black players. The acting of jumping on defense was actively discouraged; players were told not to leave their feet. Simply put, the game was nothing like what it would become.

As a high schooler, Russell was undervalued. He was tall and quick and bouncy, but he didn't grasp the fundamentals of what people wanted out of a basketball player; which were basically that he couldn't reliably put up a hook shot. People didn't understand the impact he could have defensively and what being a vertical athlete could mean to basketball. While most college coaches would love to have a raw, 6'10, bouncy athlete on their team, there was real skepticism about Russell as a player, which is why he only got one scholarship offer, to San Francisco.

At San Francisco, even as he emerged as an obviously dominant player to modern eyes, there was a lot of skepticism about Russell as a player. Sportswriters scoffed at his lack of offensive fundamentals and his untraditional playing style. Nobody had ever really blocked shots before Russell; the closest would be players like Bob Kurland, who committed what we would know call goaltending, around the basket. Russell coming over as a help-defender and blocking shots was never seen before, and people didn't understand it. Some argued that he was a bad defender, because he would leave his own man to go make a play. Few eventually realized the kind of impact he was having on the court.

Russell fully arrived as a player during his junior season at San Francisco, but even as Russell dominated the game, the skepticism remained. It really wasn't until the NCAA title game, where San Francisco beat La Salle and Tom Gola, that Russell was finally acknowledged as a great player. Gola and La Salle were the reigning national champions and Gola was perhaps the most famous college basketball player in history at that time; but Russell held him to only 16 points and San Francisco dominated La Salle.

An undefeated season and another national title would follow. Yet, people still doubted if Russell would be an effective basketball player at the next level. He wasn't taken first overall in the draft, even though he was clearly the most dominant player college basketball had ever seen. To some people, Russell just wasn't what a basketball player should be because he actually jumped and played above the rim.

Red Auerbach understood it; he understood the way the game was changing and what Russell, already the penultimate winner in college basketball, could do as the engine of his team. He understood the defensive value that Russell brought as a player, and how his rebounding, shot blocking, an outlet passing would be the critical component to take his talented (but perennially disappointing) Celtics team to the next level. He understood that black athletes were the future of basketball, and that playing a vertical game was critical to evolving into the future while other teams dug in their heels and blew Russell off as a gimmick that wouldn't work in the NBA.

Russell came to the NBA and completely changed the game. Mikan was retired, but ground-bound stars still ruled the game. One of them was Neil Johnston, who had led the NBA in scoring in three out of the previous four seasons, and the Philadelphia Warriors were the reigning champions and the class of the Eastern Conference. In Russell's third career game, on Christmas Day, 1956, Johnston immediately went to work on Russell, setting up for his patented hook shot that had won him three scoring titles. Russell blocked it. Johnston tried again. Russell blocked it. Johnston tried a third time. Russell blocked it. Johnston was held to 14 points on 5-17 shooting. Johnston would retire two years later; and Tommy Heinsohn would say "Russell played Johnston right out of the league."

Johnston wasn't the only one who wouldn't survive the Russell Revolution. Almost overnight with the arrival of Russell, the old guard of the NBA was dead. Ed Macauley would only make it two more seasons after being traded for Russell, Harry Gallatin, Vern Mikkelsen, Mel Hutchins, all men who made multiple all star games and All-NBA teams, would see their status as top post players be erased as quickly as one of their weak, fundamentally sound, hook shots.

Over time, more players would come into the game that played like Russell, with Wilt being the most famous. But Russell was the first; the first "athletic" Center, the first guy to block shots, the first guy to play above the rim. Everyone knows that he was a great winner and a great teammate and a super-clutch player and all of that, but he was the FIRST guy to basically play basketball in the way people now consider the normal standard. Outside of Ruth introducing the home run to baseball, it's hard to think of a player who was a bigger innovator to their sport than Russell.

By the time Russell's career wrapped up, the NBA was completely different and it was crawling with quick, athletic big-men in the Russell mold. Willis Reed, Elvin Hayes, Gus Johnson and with many more on the way (including his eventual replacement in Dave Cowens). Russell's edge in physical superiority had waned, especially in his battles with Wilt. That is of course when the second aspect of Russell brilliance of a player kicked-in; that cerebral understanding of the game and the compulsion to win. Later in his career, Russell wasn't blocking a dozen shots a game, but his understanding of how to organize his team (literally, he was the coach), turn it on at the biggest moments, and stay poised under pressure, were invaluable aspects to his success and every bit as important to winning as were his obvious physical gifts and innovative playing style.

Russell and Jordan stand alone as the two greatest players in NBA history for that rare combination. Both men possessed game-changing athleticism, but also had a rare drive to succeed and win, at almost any cost and to an unhealthy degree. Jordan's competitiveness has been well documented, but Russell was every bit as motivated by the fear of losing, to the degree that he was still puking before games, even with two fists full of rings. You could add LeBron to that class as well; although the modern nature of his career and hopping between teams makes him harder to compare.

Lastly, Russell's advocacy for social justice and change have been well-celebrated over the last 18 hours or so since he died; and it's really pleasant to see how that hasn't been forgotten. Personally, Russell's experience in Boston held an important mirror up to the history of racism in the city and what that means for today.

The most famous racial incident in the history of the city is probably the busing riots; but for a teenager when I first learned about them, that was a complicated issue. As an adult it is easy to see the racially charged anger that led to the riots, but at the time it was explainable to me that people would be upset about their kids being shipped away from their neighborhood schools and that the riots were not entirely race-related.

With what happened to Russell though? People breaking into his house and shitting in his bed? How could you possibly explain that as other than horrifying racism? The consistent anger he felt towards the city was a reminder of the kind of environment he lived through when he should have been universally celebrated. And what did that environment that Russell endured say about my parents, who grew up and were shaped during that time period, or my grandparents, whose generation modeled the city under that sort of behavior?

It's a constant reminder in my life about what racism is like in Greater Boston; that people who grew up in an environment where what happened to Russell wasn't viewed as a massive tragedy and in some circles was certainly condoned and encouraged, are still around today and often in positions of power. What happened to Russell, and countless other Black residents of the city, wasn't that long ago and some of it still certainly still takes place today, and we as a society have got to do better.

What Russell did wasn't easy. He was outspoken and constantly vigilant in his intolerance for racism and disrespect. He was criticized for sportswriters for not being the model negro, the grateful athlete who could be respected for being a trailblazer as long as they didn't mention to often why they had to blaze a trail in the first place. It was notable that on his social media, right after announcing his passing, it was mentioned that he led the first integrated basketball camp in Mississippi, shortly after Medgar Evans was killed. That sounds like a truly incredible accomplishment, the kind of thing you could easily make a Remember-the-Titans-style movie about, and I had never heard that before, and I feel like I know more about Russell than 99% of the population. For Russell is was just another thing he did in his life.

It's amazing to think that at the time, Russell was viewed as prickly and sore with the media. Because he wasn't the grateful, happy-to-be-there athlete that the media demanded, and because he didn't keep his mouth shut and play ball like Jackie Robinson was told to do, and because he was justifiably angry about the horrible racism he had endured throughout his life, he was seen as a bitter and angry man.

That contrasts with basically any time we've seen him over the last 40 years on video, or any personal stories you hear from people who were around him. He always came across to me as funny, charming and someone who absolutely loved life. I can still hear his trademark, yuck-yuck laugh ringing in my ears. He never comes across as bitter or angry, just someone who was acutely aware of the cruelties that were unjustly directed at him as a Black man who excelled.
Thank you so much. I agree— you should publish this. (And it occurs to me now that one of Russell’s signal achievements was his willingness to give Boston a second chance. In trying to describe the chasm between his unmatched accomplishments and the city’s ingratitude and denial of its deep-seeded racism, I would intentionally anger racist acquaintances as a teen and young man by saying that if Russell were white, Boston would have changed its name to Russellton.)
 

Jim Ed Rice in HOF

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Thank you so much. I agree— you should publish this. (And it occurs to me now that one of Russell’s signal achievements was his willingness to give Boston a second chance. In trying to describe the chasm between his unmatched accomplishments and the city’s ingratitude and denial of its deep-seeded racism, I would intentionally anger racist acquaintances as a teen and young man by saying that if Russell were white, Boston would have changed its name to Russellton.)
I saw this Heinsohn quote on Twitter quite a lot yesterday.

Look, all I know is, the guy won two NCAA championships, 50-some college games in a row, the [’56] Olympics, then he came to Boston and won 11 championships in 13 years, and they named a fucking tunnel after Ted Williams.
 

TripleOT

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Jul 4, 2007
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I’ve read a lot of tributes to Russell in the last 24 hours, and the one posted on this board by Kliq is at least as good as any of them. Very few so articulately pointed out how Russell’s game changing skills basically created the modern game of basketbal.

There is a famous picture of Bill Russell garnering a rebound where one of his legs is parallel to the ground and the other perpendicular to the ground, with him way up in the air. I learned today that that was from his debut game in the NBA. There’s a great old Nike commercial that puts Scotty Pippen into a basketball game from the beginning of basketball, and he just dominates in a way that’s so unique. I never really thought about that much before, but that is what Bill Russell‘s career was like when he started.

I watched a highlight video yesterday of Russell‘s shotblocking, and it seemed like at least half of it was him blocking Jerry West jump shots. And it wasn’t just blocking a jumper while it was still in the shooter’s hands. Russ was blocking them in the air. Even today, over a half century since Russell played, we seldom see players blocking jumpers like Russell did. I could not help but note that one player that blocks jumpers like Russell did in that highlight video is the center for the Boston Celtics, and that made me smile.
 

Kenny F'ing Powers

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Bill Russell doesn't get enough credit for being arguably the biggest game-changing player in the history of team sports; perhaps only rivaled by Babe Ruth. Before Bill Russell, basketball was a floor-bound game, dominated by slower, plodding guys who couldn't jump over a phone book but were very tall, like George Mikan or Neil Johnston. That was basketball, a game that shunned athleticism in favor of height and not-so-consequently, shunned Black players. The acting of jumping on defense was actively discouraged; players were told not to leave their feet. Simply put, the game was nothing like what it would become.

As a high schooler, Russell was undervalued. He was tall and quick and bouncy, but he didn't grasp the fundamentals of what people wanted out of a basketball player; which were basically that he couldn't reliably put up a hook shot. People didn't understand the impact he could have defensively and what being a vertical athlete could mean to basketball. While most college coaches would love to have a raw, 6'10, bouncy athlete on their team, there was real skepticism about Russell as a player, which is why he only got one scholarship offer, to San Francisco.

At San Francisco, even as he emerged as an obviously dominant player to modern eyes, there was a lot of skepticism about Russell as a player. Sportswriters scoffed at his lack of offensive fundamentals and his untraditional playing style. Nobody had ever really blocked shots before Russell; the closest would be players like Bob Kurland, who committed what we would know call goaltending, around the basket. Russell coming over as a help-defender and blocking shots was never seen before, and people didn't understand it. Some argued that he was a bad defender, because he would leave his own man to go make a play. Few eventually realized the kind of impact he was having on the court.

Russell fully arrived as a player during his junior season at San Francisco, but even as Russell dominated the game, the skepticism remained. It really wasn't until the NCAA title game, where San Francisco beat La Salle and Tom Gola, that Russell was finally acknowledged as a great player. Gola and La Salle were the reigning national champions and Gola was perhaps the most famous college basketball player in history at that time; but Russell held him to only 16 points and San Francisco dominated La Salle.

An undefeated season and another national title would follow. Yet, people still doubted if Russell would be an effective basketball player at the next level. He wasn't taken first overall in the draft, even though he was clearly the most dominant player college basketball had ever seen. To some people, Russell just wasn't what a basketball player should be because he actually jumped and played above the rim.

Red Auerbach understood it; he understood the way the game was changing and what Russell, already the penultimate winner in college basketball, could do as the engine of his team. He understood the defensive value that Russell brought as a player, and how his rebounding, shot blocking, an outlet passing would be the critical component to take his talented (but perennially disappointing) Celtics team to the next level. He understood that black athletes were the future of basketball, and that playing a vertical game was critical to evolving into the future while other teams dug in their heels and blew Russell off as a gimmick that wouldn't work in the NBA.

Russell came to the NBA and completely changed the game. Mikan was retired, but ground-bound stars still ruled the game. One of them was Neil Johnston, who had led the NBA in scoring in three out of the previous four seasons, and the Philadelphia Warriors were the reigning champions and the class of the Eastern Conference. In Russell's third career game, on Christmas Day, 1956, Johnston immediately went to work on Russell, setting up for his patented hook shot that had won him three scoring titles. Russell blocked it. Johnston tried again. Russell blocked it. Johnston tried a third time. Russell blocked it. Johnston was held to 14 points on 5-17 shooting. Johnston would retire two years later; and Tommy Heinsohn would say "Russell played Johnston right out of the league."

Johnston wasn't the only one who wouldn't survive the Russell Revolution. Almost overnight with the arrival of Russell, the old guard of the NBA was dead. Ed Macauley would only make it two more seasons after being traded for Russell, Harry Gallatin, Vern Mikkelsen, Mel Hutchins, all men who made multiple all star games and All-NBA teams, would see their status as top post players be erased as quickly as one of their weak, fundamentally sound, hook shots.

Over time, more players would come into the game that played like Russell, with Wilt being the most famous. But Russell was the first; the first "athletic" Center, the first guy to block shots, the first guy to play above the rim. Everyone knows that he was a great winner and a great teammate and a super-clutch player and all of that, but he was the FIRST guy to basically play basketball in the way people now consider the normal standard. Outside of Ruth introducing the home run to baseball, it's hard to think of a player who was a bigger innovator to their sport than Russell.

By the time Russell's career wrapped up, the NBA was completely different and it was crawling with quick, athletic big-men in the Russell mold. Willis Reed, Elvin Hayes, Gus Johnson and with many more on the way (including his eventual replacement in Dave Cowens). Russell's edge in physical superiority had waned, especially in his battles with Wilt. That is of course when the second aspect of Russell brilliance of a player kicked-in; that cerebral understanding of the game and the compulsion to win. Later in his career, Russell wasn't blocking a dozen shots a game, but his understanding of how to organize his team (literally, he was the coach), turn it on at the biggest moments, and stay poised under pressure, were invaluable aspects to his success and every bit as important to winning as were his obvious physical gifts and innovative playing style.

Russell and Jordan stand alone as the two greatest players in NBA history for that rare combination. Both men possessed game-changing athleticism, but also had a rare drive to succeed and win, at almost any cost and to an unhealthy degree. Jordan's competitiveness has been well documented, but Russell was every bit as motivated by the fear of losing, to the degree that he was still puking before games, even with two fists full of rings. You could add LeBron to that class as well; although the modern nature of his career and hopping between teams makes him harder to compare.

Lastly, Russell's advocacy for social justice and change have been well-celebrated over the last 18 hours or so since he died; and it's really pleasant to see how that hasn't been forgotten. Personally, Russell's experience in Boston held an important mirror up to the history of racism in the city and what that means for today.

The most famous racial incident in the history of the city is probably the busing riots; but for a teenager when I first learned about them, that was a complicated issue. As an adult it is easy to see the racially charged anger that led to the riots, but at the time it was explainable to me that people would be upset about their kids being shipped away from their neighborhood schools and that the riots were not entirely race-related.

With what happened to Russell though? People breaking into his house and shitting in his bed? How could you possibly explain that as other than horrifying racism? The consistent anger he felt towards the city was a reminder of the kind of environment he lived through when he should have been universally celebrated. And what did that environment that Russell endured say about my parents, who grew up and were shaped during that time period, or my grandparents, whose generation modeled the city under that sort of behavior?

It's a constant reminder in my life about what racism is like in Greater Boston; that people who grew up in an environment where what happened to Russell wasn't viewed as a massive tragedy and in some circles was certainly condoned and encouraged, are still around today and often in positions of power. What happened to Russell, and countless other Black residents of the city, wasn't that long ago and some of it still certainly still takes place today, and we as a society have got to do better.

What Russell did wasn't easy. He was outspoken and constantly vigilant in his intolerance for racism and disrespect. He was criticized for sportswriters for not being the model negro, the grateful athlete who could be respected for being a trailblazer as long as they didn't mention to often why they had to blaze a trail in the first place. It was notable that on his social media, right after announcing his passing, it was mentioned that he led the first integrated basketball camp in Mississippi, shortly after Medgar Evans was killed. That sounds like a truly incredible accomplishment, the kind of thing you could easily make a Remember-the-Titans-style movie about, and I had never heard that before, and I feel like I know more about Russell than 99% of the population. For Russell is was just another thing he did in his life.

It's amazing to think that at the time, Russell was viewed as prickly and sore with the media. Because he wasn't the grateful, happy-to-be-there athlete that the media demanded, and because he didn't keep his mouth shut and play ball like Jackie Robinson was told to do, and because he was justifiably angry about the horrible racism he had endured throughout his life, he was seen as a bitter and angry man.

That contrasts with basically any time we've seen him over the last 40 years on video, or any personal stories you hear from people who were around him. He always came across to me as funny, charming and someone who absolutely loved life. I can still hear his trademark, yuck-yuck laugh ringing in my ears. He never comes across as bitter or angry, just someone who was acutely aware of the cruelties that were unjustly directed at him as a Black man who excelled.
Yeah, man. Not to kiss your ass, but I agree with everything said above.

Worst case, you can stop posting here if you want, because I can't imagine you top this post. Really, really great.
 

Dave Stapleton

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Just another personal anecdote. Growing up as a teenager in the 80s I was raised on the Celtics. These were formative years of my relationship with my dad. We enjoyed the 80s Celtics together (on TV and at the old Garden) but I could always sense his love and fondness for those past teams. He was one of those Boston kids who snuck into the garden, my grandfather had a part time job at the old Walter Brown and he just loved Bill Russell.

He would sit me down whenever there were old Celtics highlights on TV and focus me on Bob Cousy’s passing and how Russell blocked shots. “See that!” he would say. “He’s not blocking it out of bounds he’s tipping it to himself!”. My son is 20 now and I find myself saying this same thing to him every time we watch a game together and a blocked shot goes into the seats. He also relayed to me all of the racist BS he dealt with when he bought his house on the North Shore.

I lost my dad at 71 six years ago and this brought back so many memories and also sadness. My son texted me the news (same first name as me, my dad and my grandfather). I simply said … “Papa loved him” in response and he acknowledged that it was the first thing he thought of. It’s funny how as you get older, sports isn’t just a silly game.
 

Al Zarilla

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Boston has been blessed by having athletes in the four major sports that can lay a legitimate claim to being the best in their craft - Williams (whose craft was hitting), Orr, Brady and Russell. The greatest of these is Russell. Yes - it is because he was as much an icon off the court as on but watch the films of Russell on court, understand what game he was trying to play - and then marvel at how good a basketball player he was. Not "for his time" but for all time. There are films of him jumping over defenders, making floor length bullet passes, ripping boards away from people with a ferocity that has never been approached. Some people change their sport and make others try to match them - others are unmatchable. RIP to a great man - and a unique talent.
Now you're making me want to search for some Russell era games somewhere on the internet. And not the finals against LA that's in color but good old black and white stuff. Cousy, Sharman, Heinsohn, Loscutoff, Ramsey type guys (nothing against you Hondo, Sam, KC...).
 

ifmanis5

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It feels sad and unnerving to wake up in a world where Bill Russell is not present. Enjoying all the posts here, well done. A true Legend in every sense of the word.
The Celtics have had lots of black arm band uniform years but this one will hit different. Truly an irreplaceable person.
 

RoDaddy

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Yes, fantastic post Kliq!

Should Bobby Orr revolutionizing hockey as a "rushing defenseman" be included in the greatest of sports revolutionaries?

I seem to remember reading a report that Russell blocked the first TEN SHOTS by (I think) all-star Harry Gallatin, who I believe was also dissing Russell's abilities before the game! I wish there was/is some kind of specific number of Russell's blocked shots per game maybe using games that were videotaped. Even if it's only 5% of the games, it would at least give some concrete evidence of his greatness here.

So who plays Russell in the movie?
 

jacklamabe65

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I love Teddy Ballgame, Tom Brady, and Bobby Orr- always have, but Russ is in the first spot on Boston's Mount Rushmore. There can be no one else.

I had the honor of seeing him play in person beginning in 1965 when I saw the C's play the Knicks at the old Gahden. Dad took me to see him battle Wilt in 1966 and 1968. I also saw him play the Lakers in 1967 and 1969. I also saw Russ as player-coach in December 1968 against the expansion Milwaukee Bucks. When he was player-coach, he would call timeout and then simply stay where he was; the C's would then sprint out to him, and he would have a meeting whenever he stopped. KC ran the defense, Sam the offense, but Russ was totally in charge. He seemed like a God to me at the time. He still does.
 

ManicCompression

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Few superstars - off the top of my head, it's Hank Aaron and maybe that's it - we're as humble, thoughtful, graceful, and generally worthy of idolatry as Bill Russell. When Charles Barkley says "Athletes aren't heroes", he's not talking about Bill Russell. Because of his era and his accomplishments, the man had to be perfect ,and he was. Truly a loss for the world.
 

bigq

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Fantastic post, and I mean FANTASTIC post. Thank you.

Regarding the Celtics picking Russell second, I read this morning that after trading up for that pick, they wanted to trade again up to #1 to be able to take Russell. The owner of the Rochester team who had that pick refused saying he'd be run out of town if he traded it. Red got Walter Brown to call the Rochester owner and offer him the Ice Capades (owned by Brown) for a week in his arena if he didn't pick Russell. He didn't, the Celtics did, and the rest is history.

Edit: that anecdote is from John Feinstein's tribute this morning.
Bob Ryan joined the Red Sox radio broadcast for an inning on the day Russell passed away and shared the same story. I’m selfishly grateful that Red had the foresight to grab Russell in the same year the Celtics drafted Heinshon (what an incredible haul!) I never saw Russell play however my love for the Celtics led to me learning a lot about him over the years which I may not have if he had been on another team. What a remarkable amazing person. RIP Whiskers.
 

jaytftwofive

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Jan 20, 2013
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Lets' not forget the first African American head coach in pro sports, and two titles at USF and a Olympic Gold Medal. I'm sure he's having a cigar in heaven with Red and Sam and K.C. and Hondo and Heinsohn and others. RIP Bill to you and your family.
And he also won two California State championships in high school. And his teammate was.............................Frank Robinson.
 

jaytftwofive

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Jan 20, 2013
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I love Teddy Ballgame, Tom Brady, and Bobby Orr- always have, but Russ is in the first spot on Boston's Mount Rushmore. There can be no one else.

I had the honor of seeing him play in person beginning in 1965 when I saw the C's play the Knicks at the old Gahden. Dad took me to see him battle Wilt in 1966 and 1968. I also saw him play the Lakers in 1967 and 1969. I also saw Russ as player-coach in December 1968 against the expansion Milwaukee Bucks. When he was player-coach, he would call timeout and then simply stay where he was; the C's would then sprint out to him, and he would have a meeting whenever he stopped. KC ran the defense, Sam the offense, but Russ was totally in charge. He seemed like a God to me at the time. He still does.
Amen!!!
 

Jimbodandy

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And he also won two California State championships in high school. And his teammate was.............................Frank Robinson.
You know...I read that fact earlier without connecting that both of those men were the first African American manager/head coach in their respective professional league. What a high school.
 

moretsyndrome

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Yes, fantastic post Kliq!

Should Bobby Orr revolutionizing hockey as a "rushing defenseman" be included in the greatest of sports revolutionaries?

I seem to remember reading a report that Russell blocked the first TEN SHOTS by (I think) all-star Harry Gallatin, who I believe was also dissing Russell's abilities before the game! I wish there was/is some kind of specific number of Russell's blocked shots per game maybe using games that were videotaped. Even if it's only 5% of the games, it would at least give some concrete evidence of his greatness here.

So who plays Russell in the movie?
To the bolded, yes, 100%. Anyone who has the ability to play with the elite of the elite and beat them by playing the same game, but in a different way, is a freakin' god. Like Orr.
 

snowmanny

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Dec 8, 2005
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Man, all these stories lately are making it hard for me to hold onto my anti-Laker hate, between this Magic tweet and the Kareem story.
You should have heard Jerry West welling up in tears recounting the nice things Russell said about him.

Then they asked him if Russell trash-talked. “Never” “Consummate professional”.

West then adds that players that trash-talk aren’t focused on the game and aren’t going to be that good.

Um...I know one guy he might have seen...
 

dhellers

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Interesting person calling for Russell's number to be retired by the NBA.


Earvin Magic Johnson
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Commissioner Adam Silver should retire number 6 across the @NBA in honor of Bill Russell’s legacy!
XM NBA radio guys were talking up this idea (league wide retire of #6).

As a lifer Celtics fan I am mildly against the idea - Russell was a Celtic!
But if fans of other teams insist, then so be it.

That said: anyone advocating "retire Kobe's number league wide" is dishonoring the accomplishments and essential decency of Russell.
 

bankshot1

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I suggested the NBA retiring Russell's #6 almost immediately (see upthread) I think it a modest gesture to pay tribute to a giant of a human being in so many ways. His impact on me as a teenager (and I would guess many others) and how I (we) understood racism and its assault on common decency and right and wrong can not be minimized.

Russell changed people's perspectives with words and actions . Russell was a role model really unlike any other A-A sports star of the 50-60s. (Jackie R, Jim Brown, Ali) He was a leader on the court and then coach that demanded respect and there was no reason that respect should be denied him off the court.

The NBA should recognize and formalize his pioneering efforts in the league but more importantly his lifelong contributions to make our society a better place for all people.
 
Last edited:

ifmanis5

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Bob Ryan finally published his Russell column: https://www.bostonglobe.com/2022/08/05/sports/bill-russell-was-unparalleled-basketball-court-uncompromising-off-it/

Last few grafs:

Russell’s problems living in the Boston of the day once the game ended have been well-documented. Suffice it to say that Boston was never going to be his favorite place. But do not confuse that with his fidelity to the Celtics as an organization. He loved Red Auerbach and he loved his teammates. He was once introduced by Hannah Storm on NBC as “Hall of Famer Bill Russell” and he corrected her. “No, Hannah,” he said, “make that Boston Celtic Bill Russell.”
As for the NBA, the league should borrow from baseball. No one will ever wear 42 (Jackie Robinson) again. Nor should any professional basketball player ever wear 6.
Boston has been uniquely blessed with an unbroken succession of first-ballot Hall of Famers. It started with Eddie Shore in 1925 and will continue with Patrice Bergeron, whenever he decides to hang ‘em up. Were all those megastars lined up for a parade, the flag bearer would be Bill Russell.
Bill Russell lived to be 88, and 13 of those years were spent enhancing the city of Boston. Here’s the question: Did we deserve him?
 

moondog80

heart is two sizes two small
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Sep 20, 2005
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I'd have been OK saying Jackie Robinson was unique and he is the only one ever who gets this treatment. So maybe now each sport gets one -- Jim Brown gets the honors when he passes and whoever gets in the NHL. But given that the NBA chose to do it, they picked the right guy.
 

Zereck

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Jul 17, 2005
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I'd have been OK saying Jackie Robinson was unique and he is the only one ever who gets this treatment. So maybe now each sport gets one -- Jim Brown gets the honors when he passes and whoever gets in the NHL. But given that the NBA chose to do it, they picked the right guy.
Gretzky already is in the NHL
 

Scoots McBoots

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Jul 16, 2005
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I'd have been OK saying Jackie Robinson was unique and he is the only one ever who gets this treatment. So maybe now each sport gets one -- Jim Brown gets the honors when he passes and whoever gets in the NHL. But given that the NBA chose to do it, they picked the right guy.
Russell broke the (modern) color barrier for coaching across professional sports, on top of all his playing accomplishments. I think that's worth the honor.
 

moondog80

heart is two sizes two small
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Sep 20, 2005
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Russell broke the (modern) color barrier for coaching across professional sports, on top of all his playing accomplishments. I think that's worth the honor.
I have no beef with Bill Russell. I just liked the idea of one person, and one person only, getting the honor.
 

Dim13

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Jul 14, 2005
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The mucky muck
Honestly, since Bill passed, I was really hoping (but not expecting) that the NBA would do this. The fact that they are...is awesome.
 

E5 Yaz

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espn: Additionally, all NBA players will wear a commemorative patch on the right shoulder of their jerseys during the 2022-23 season, and every court will display a shamrock-shaped logo with Russell's No. 6 on the sideline near the scorer's table.
 

Reverend

for king and country
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I have no beef with Bill Russell. I just liked the idea of one person, and one person only, getting the honor.
Yeah, I can see that, but it would be pretty awkward to take all those 42s down now.