Bill Russell obituary | nba

In his 13 seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA) with the Boston Celtics, Bill Russell, who has died at the age of 88, won 11 championships, a record unmatched in team sports. But his place as one of the most influential American athletes of the 20th century is only behind Muhammad Ali And perhaps Baseball player Jackie Robinson, based more than on his strong will to win, and his intelligence in linking his skills to those of his teammates to facilitate that process.

He was the NBA’s first black star, more than five times the league’s most valuable player. His ability to make a defensive jump changed basketball from a horizontal to a vertical game. And in 1966, when Celtics coach Red Auerbach stepped down and named Russell his successor, he became the first black head coach in modern America’s four major sports leagues.

Off the court, he was a pioneer in the fight for human dignity. Russell stood by Martin Luther King during his “I have a dream” speech in Washington; When Ali opposed the draft, Russell was next to him.Cleveland Summit“Of star athletes, with gridiron star and actor Jim Brown on the other side.

Russell was late to his abilities, but he learned his sense of self-worth early. He was born in Monroe, Louisiana, and his father Charlie taught young Bill what his father had taught him: “A man has to draw a line inside himself, he will not allow any man to cross. ” When Charlie was denied a pay increase he believed he deserved, he went to work in Detroit, leaving his wife Katie (née King), his sons, Bill, and his brother. To take care of Charlie Jr., troubled by cold winters, Charlie moved to Oakland, California, started a profitable trucking business transporting daily wage workers, and sent for the family. But when Bill was 12 years old, Katie died, and Charlie took a job in a steelmill to spend more time with his children.

Bill could not make his high-school basketball team until his final year. His only college scholarship offer came from the University of San Francisco, but that developed quickly. The USF won consecutive national basketball championships in its junior and senior seasons, losing only one game and winning 55 in a row. In the 1956 final against Iowa, Russell scored 26 points, made 27 rebounds and blocked 20 shots. He was the leading scorer on the US Olympic team that won the gold medal in Melbourne that year, winning at an unmatched average of 53.5 points per game.

Bill Russell and Red Auerbach
Bill Russell with Celtics coach Red Auerbach after the team won its eighth consecutive NBA title in 1966. Russell became the first black head coach in a major American sports league since Auerbach. Photo: AP

Meanwhile, Auerbach had traded two star players to get a second pick in the NBA draft, and the Celtics’ owner, Walter Brown, persuaded the Rochester Royals to pass Russell with the first pick, giving his field a pass. Money by offering the opportunity to host—in return—the two-week-long Ice Capades ice-skating show. After the Olympics, Russell led the Celtics to the 1957 title over the St. Louis Hawks. In fact, Russell could have claimed 12 titles in perhaps 13 years had he not sprained his ankle in game three of the 1958 final, also against the Hawks, which the Celtics then lost.

At 2.08 m (6 ft 10 in) and 99 kg (15 st 10 lb), Russell possessed an agility that changed the way the big centers played. In college he used to run 440 yards (now the distance is changed to 400 meters) and jump high; His 2.06m jump in the 1956 Coast Relays was tied with that of Charlie Dumas, who won the gold medal in Melbourne. Russell played as a sweeper; His teammates outnumbered opponents, defending tightly, knowing that he could cover up their mistakes. He controlled his blocks and rebounds to get the ball upcourt to teammates; The trademark Celtic “fast-break” offense was born.

He also won the game’s biggest individual rivalry for the American team against Wilt Chamberlain, who was three inches tall and much larger. Chamberlain once broke records by scoring 100 points in a game, but Russell won most of his meetings, and all but one of the playoff competitions. Wilt thought that what was best for Wilt was best for the team; As both player and coach Russell looked for ways to challenge his teammates, without the common problem of superstars undermining him.

Although he was completely devoted to the Celtics, the first NBA team to draft a black player and the first to start an all-black lineup, Russell’s ties to the city of Boston, Massachusetts, which he called “a flea market of racism.” as described. , was difficult. His house in the nearby suburb of Reading was burgled and ransacked. When he complained to the police about the overturning of the cans, he laughed and blamed the raccoon. When Russell asked where he could get a gun license to shoot the raccoon, the vandalism stopped.

bill russell
Bill Russell reacted in 2009 to the news that the NBA’s award for Most Valuable Player was named after him. Photo: Matt York/AP

Russell protected his privacy by refusing to give autographs; I know, because I asked for one when I was working near him at the 1976 Olympic basketball final in Montreal. He politely declined, but shook my hand. He worked as a TV commentator, where he would often get bored with constraints on opinion given on the air, and then as coach and general manager of the Seattle SuperSonics, 3,000 miles from Boston. His four-year success in Seattle was followed by an unsuccessful spell with the Sacramento Kings; Russell found the players hopeless without his and the Celtics’ drive for the team’s success. He worked tirelessly for charities, most notably a mentoring program he helped set up.

Russell co-authored four books; Second Wind (with Taylor Branch, 1979) and Red and Me (with Alan Steinberg, 2009) are classics of sports memoirs. In later years, his public persona matched his private persona, helping to cement his legacy. He reconciled with Boston, where a statue of him was unveiled at City Hall Plaza in 2013. The NBA trophy for Most Valuable Player in the Finals is named after him. In 2012 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama; In 2017, when the President Donald Trump called For NFL players kneeling to “take out,” Russell released a video of himself, kneeling, holding that medal.

He is survived by his fourth wife, Jeanine Fiorito, and his son Jacob and daughter, Karen, from his first marriage, Rosie Swisher, which ended in divorce. Their eldest son, William Jr., died in 2016. His second marriage to former Miss USA, Dorothy Anstate, also ended in divorce. His third wife, Marilyn Nault, died in 2009.

William Felton Russell, basketball player, born 12 February 1934; Death 31 July 2022

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