Bill Russell, NBA Pioneer, Days At 88

Bill Russell, year The 11-time NBA champion, known for breaking down racial barriers and his defensive prowess on the basketball court, died on Sunday. I was 88 years old.

A announcement posted on Twitter did not include details of his death but said Russell “passed away peacefully…with his wife, Jeannine, by his side.”

Throughout his 13 season career with the Boston Celtics, the 6 feet 10 inches Russell stopped 21,620 rebounds – the second highest of all time. His keen awareness of the ground revolutionized how defense was played in the NBA.

Russell also became the first black head coach in any major American professional sports league when Red Auerbach handed him the reins of the Celtics in 1966, and he completed the last three years of his career on the field as a player-coach.

Russell was an 11-time NBA champion.
Russell was an 11-time NBA champion.

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Born Feb. On December 12, 1934, William Felton Russell spent his early years in Monroe, Louisiana, before his family moved west during World War II, eventually landing in Oakland, California.

In school, he was a natural track star and led his high school basketball team to back-to-back state titles.

At the University of San Francisco – barely a basketball powerhouse – I played under coach Phil Woolpert, who preached a style based on hard-nosed defense, a system that helped Russell explode into a phenomenon. national.

His trademark move? I jumped. I avoided the defensive tradition, refusing to keep one’s feet on the groundchanging every possession, as well as the sport itself.

Russell, while a player at the University of San Francisco, showed his form in April 1956.
Russell, while a player at the University of San Francisco, showed his form in April 1956.

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I counted an average of 20.7 points and 20.3 rebounds per game throughout his three-year collegiate career, winning national championships in 1955 and 1956.

After bringing that second title back to campus, Russell turned pro. Although several franchises jockeyed for him, he was number one. 2 picks in the 1956 NBA draft, which brought him to the Celtics.

After a pit stop in Melbourne, Australia for the Summer Olympics, it took little time for the Celtics led by Russell and Auerbach to dominate. Scroll through the league annals of the next few seasons and you’ll see a combination of ‘Boston’, ‘Celtics’ and ‘Russell’ alongside a laughable number of records, like Russell’s long arms, Auerbach’s gritty style and the Celtics. team chemistry has led the franchise to 11 titles in 13 years.

Russell averaged over 20 rebounds per game in every season of his career, except his first year and his last two years. He’s been nominated league most valuable player five times – tied with Michael Jordan and behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the most part. And in the 1963-64 season, he grabbed 24.7 rebounds per game, about half of what a whole team brought today.

How good were the Celtics with Russell? The club won the title in: 1957, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1968 and 1969.

In public and in front of the press, Russell was brusque. He once said he owed Celtics fans ‘nothing’ and ‘denies[d] smile and be kind to children.

President Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Russell in 2010.
President Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Russell in 2010.

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His aloof attitude was commonly attributed to the racial climate of the time ― a time when his house was broken into and vandalized, with fanaticism scrawled on its walls. He and his black teammates were refused service at a restaurant in Lexington, Kentucky, before a Celtics exhibition game, which they later decided to boycott in protest.

Russell retired after his 11th championship run in 1968-69. He briefly served as head coach of the Seattle Supersonics and Sacramento Kings, but after taking off that Celtics No. 6 jersey for the final time, he largely disappeared from public life, opting to reside on a small island just east of the city. is from Seattle – with his family, without fuss.

He was not present when the Celtics first retired his jersey in 1972. He “insisted“that he hung from the rafters as the famous Boston Garden stood empty of all fans, so much his memory of his time in a city he would later call a”flea market of racism.”

It wasn’t until 27 years later that Russell agreed to be present for a uniform retirement. According to the New York Timeshe wept that night at the sight of tens of thousands of Celtics fans standing in green, chanting his name, three decades after he unceremoniously left the franchise.

Sara Bondioli contributed reporting.