Bill Russell

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Bill Russell

NameBill Russell
DOB12 February 1934
(Age 88 Yr. )
Died31 July 2022

Personal Life

Education Graduate
Nationality USA
Profession Basketball Player
Birth Place   USA

Physical Appearance

Height 6 feet 10 inch

Family

Parents

Father: Charles

Mother: Katie Russell

Marital Status Married
Spouse jeannine Russell
Childern/Kids

Jacob Russell, Karen Russell , William Russell Jr.

Siblings

 Charlie L. Russell

William Felton "Bill" Russell (February 12, 1934 – July 31, 2022) was an American professional basketball player who played as a center for the Boston  of the (NBA) from 1956 to 1969. A five-time NBA most valuable(MVP) and a 12-time NBA all star, he was the centerpiece of the Celtics dynasty that won 11 NBA championships during his 13-year career. Russell and Henri Richard of the National Hockey League are tied for the record of the most championships won by an athlete in a North American sports league.Russell is widely considered to be one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He led the San Francisco Dons to two consecutive NCAA championships in 1955 and 1956, and he captained the gold-medal winning U.S. national basketball team at the 1956 Summer Olympics.

Despite his limitations on offense, as Russell averaged 15.1 points per game, his rebounding, defense, and leadership made him one of the dominant players of his era. Standing at 6 ft 10 in (2.08 m) tall, with a 7 ft 4 in (2.24 m) arm span, his shot-blocking and man-to-man defense were major reasons for the Celtics' dominance during his career. Russell was equally notable for his rebounding abilities, and he led the NBA in rebounds four times, had a dozen consecutive seasons of 1,000 or more rebounds, and remains second all time in both total rebounds and rebounds per game. He is one of just two NBA players (the other being prominent rival Wilt Chamberlain) to have grabbed more than 50 rebounds in a game.

Russell played in the wake of black pioneers Earl Lloyd, Chuck Cooper, and Sweetwater Clifton, and he was the first black player to achieve superstar status in the NBA. He also served a three-season (1966–1969) stint as player-coach for the Celtics, becoming the first black coach in the NBA and the first to win a championship. In 2011, Barack Obama awarded Russell the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his accomplishments on the court and in the civil rights movement.

Russell was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975, was one of the founding inductees into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006 and was enshrined in the FIBA Hall of Fame in 2007. He was selected into the NBA 25th Anniversary Team in 1971 and the NBA 35th Anniversary Team in 1980, named as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996,one of only four players to receive all three honors, and selected into the NBA 75th Anniversary Team in 2021. In 2009, the NBA renamed the NBA Finals MVP Award in his honor. In 2021, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame a second time for his coaching career. Shortly after his death in 2022, the NBA retired Russell's #6 jersey league-wide, making him the only player in NBA history to receive the honor.

Family

Russell was born on February 12, 1934, to Charles Russell and Katie Russell in West Monroe, Louisiana. Like almost all Southern towns and cities of that time, Monroe was very segregated and the Russells often struggled with racism in their daily lives. Russell's father was once refused service at a gas station until the staff had taken care of all the white customers first. When he attempted to leave and find a different station, the attendant stuck a shotgun in his face and threatened to kill him if he did not stay and wait his turn.In another incident, Russell's mother was walking outside in a fancy dress when a white policeman accosted her. He told her to go home and remove the dress, which he described as "white woman's clothing".

During World War II, the Second Great Migration began, as large numbers of Black people were moving to the West to look for work there. When Russell was eight years old, his father moved the family out of Louisiana and settled in Oakland, California. While there, they fell into poverty and Russell spent his childhood living in a series of public housing projects.

His father was said to be a "stern, hard man" who initially worked in a paper factory as a janitor, which was a typical "Negro Job"—low-paid and not intellectually challenging, as sports journalist John Taylor commented. When World War II broke out, the elder Russell became a truck driver. Russell was closer to his mother Katie than to his father, and he received a major emotional blow when she suddenly died when he was 12 years old. His father gave up his trucking job and became a steelworker in order to be closer to his children. Russell stated that his father became his childhood hero, later followed up by Minneapolis Lakers superstar George Mikan, whom he met when he was in high school. Of Russell the college basketball player, Mikan said: “Let's face it, he's the best ever. He's so good, he scares you.”

Initial exposure to basketball

During his early years, Russell struggled to develop his skills as a basketball player. Although Russell was a good runner and jumper and had large hands, he did not understand the game and was cut from the team at Herbert Hoover Junior High School. As a freshman at McClymonds High School in Oakland, Russell was almost cut again; as he saw Russell's raw athletic potential, coach George Powles encouraged him to work on his fundamentals. Since Russell's previous experiences with white authority figures were often negative, warm words from Powles reassured him. He worked hard and used the benefits of a growth spurt to become a decent basketball player. Frank Robinson, a future member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, was one of Russell's high school basketball teammates.

Russell soon became noted for his unusual style of defense. He later recalled: “To play good defense ... it was told back then that you had to stay flatfooted at all times to react quickly. When I started to jump to make defensive plays and to block shots, I was initially corrected, but I stuck with it, and it paid off.” In an autobiographical account, Russell said that while on a California High School All-Stars tour, he became obsessed with studying and memorizing other players' moves, e.g., footwork such as which foot they moved first on which play, as preparation for defending against them, which included practicing in front of a mirror at night. Russell described himself as an avid reader of Dell Magazines' 1950s sports publications, which he used to scout opponents' moves for the purpose of defending against them.

College Career

Russell was ignored by college recruiters and received not one offer until recruiter Hal DeJulio from the University of San Francisco (USF) watched him play in a high school game. DeJulio was unimpressed by Russell's meager scoring and “atrocious fundamentals”but he sensed that the young Russell had an extraordinary instinct for the game, especially in the clutch. When DeJulio offered Russell a scholarship, he eagerly accepted. Sports journalist John Taylor described it as a watershed event in Russell's life because he realized that basketball was his chance to escape poverty and racism, and he swore to make the best of it.

 

Russell practicing a free throw at USF, c. 1953–56

At USF, Russell became the new starting center for coach Phil Woolpert of the San Francisco Dons. Woolpert emphasized defense and deliberate half-court play, which favored Russell's exceptional defensive skills. Woolpert's choice of how to deploy his players was unaffected by their skin color. In 1954, he became the first coach of a major college basketball squad to start three African-American players: K. C. Jones, Hal Perry, and Russell. In his USF years, Russell took advantage of his relative lack of bulk to develop a unique defensive style: instead of purely guarding the opposing center, he used his quickness and speed to play help defense against opposing forwards and aggressively challenge their shots.

Combining the stature and shot-blocking skills of a center with the foot speed of a guard, Russell became the centerpiece of a USF team that soon became a force in college basketball. After USF kept Holy Cross Crusaders star Tom Heinsohn scoreless in an entire half, Sports Illustrated wrote: “If [Russell] ever learns to hit the basket, they're going to have to rewrite the rules.” The NCAA rewrote rules in response to Russell's dominant play; the lane was widened for his junior year. After he graduated, the NCAA rules committee instituted a second new rule to counter the play of big men like Russell; basket interference was now prohibited. Russell became one of several big men who have brought about NCAA rule changes. The NCAA had previously prohibited goaltending in response to George Mikan (1945) and later banned the dunk shot due to Lew Alcindor (1967), although the latter rule was later repealed.

Professional Career

In the draft, Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach set his sights on Russell, thinking his defensive toughness and rebounding prowess were the missing pieces the Celtics needed. Auerbach's thoughts were unorthodox, as in that period centers and forwards were defined by their offensive output, and their ability to play defense was secondary. Boston's chances of getting Russell seemed slim because they had finished second in the previous season and the worst teams had the highest draft picks, and the Celtics had slipped too low in the draft order to pick Russell. In addition, Auerbach had already used his NBA territorial pick to acquire talented forward Tom Heinsohn. Auerbach knew that the Rochester Royals, who owned the first draft pick, already had a strong rebounder in Maurice Stokes, were looking for an outside shooting guard, and were unwilling to pay Russell the $25,000 signing bonus he requested. Celtics owner Walter A. Brown contacted Rochester owner Les Harrison and received an assurance that the Royals could not afford Russell, and they would draft Sihugo Green.Auerbach later said that Brown offered Harrison guaranteed performances of the Ice Capades if they did not draft Russell; it is difficult to verify or disprove this, but it is clear that the Royals underrated Russell.

The St. Louis Hawks, who owned the second pick, drafted Russell but were vying for Celtics center Ed Macauley, a six-time NBA All-Star who had roots in St. Louis. Auerbach agreed to trade Macauley, who had previously asked to be traded to St. Louis in order to be with his sick son, if the Hawks gave up Russell. The owner of the Hawks called Auerbach later and demanded more in the trade. In addition to Macauley, who was the Celtics' premier player at the time, he wanted Cliff Hagan, who had been serving in the military for three years and had not yet played for the Celtics. After much debate, Auerbach agreed to give up Hagan and the Hawks made the trade. During that same draft, Boston also drafted guard K. C. Jones, Russell's former USF teammate, and managed to draft three future Basketball Hall of Famers: Russell, Jones, and Heinsohn. The Russell draft-day trade was later called one of the most important trades in the history of North American sports.