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L E’s Stories – “There’s The Best Player….And Then There’s The Most Valuable Player” – Tribute To Celtics Bill Russell

When growing up in Midland, Texas, basketball was the favorite sport to play around Bone Daddy’s house….albeit Pops and Los Tres Hermanos (3 brothers) played a myriad of sports which also included baseball, football, tennis, golf, racquet ball, table tennis (ping pong) and bowling….as Pops always had the boys out playing one of the above….however, since the Sam Houston Elementary playground was just across the street from the family home….and it had an outdoor basketball court. which made it easy to grab a ball and head to the court to start a two-on-two half court games that could evolve into a five-on-five full court game if there were enough players at the court.  As a result of this, the game of basketball became the lead sports in the family’s life….which led to watching as much basketball on television as possible….plus, it led to Lil Wally and Bone Daddy both lettering in basketball while in High School….and since the decade of the 1950’s through the mid- 1960’s offered predominately NBA games on television….. while considering that the Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, Minneapolis Lakers, Cincinnati Royals, St Louis Hawks and the Philadelphia Warriors were the dominate teams during this era…..with the Celtics being the “Supreme Dominator”….which put them on the NBA game of the week on television more often than the others….so, naturally Pops and the three boys became Celtics fans.  I said all of that to say this….Bone Daddy grew up being a huge Celtics fan….and center Bill Russell became his favorite player, by a long shot….as he still considers “Russ” to be the greatest player of all time.  Even though the basketball world in 2020 almost unanimously considers Michael Jordan the GOAT….Bone Daddy simply says “11 championship rings to 6″…..referring to the fact that Russell led his team to 11 titles in 13 years…  while Jordan led his team to 6 titles in 17 years….as we say around here….DO THE MATH.  It wasn’t until BD heard an interview with Russell…..where he clearly stated that there is no question that MJ was the greatest player the game has ever seen….and that is when Bone Daddy adjusted his viewpoint to Jordan being the greatest player the game has seen….while Russell was the most valuable player the game has ever seen….which is reason enough for me to post this tribute to the man for whom the NBA MVP trophy is named after, Bill Russell.                                                                                                                           

NBA – 2013 – Boston Celtics Special Film – “Red And Me”< – Part 1/em> – The Story Of Bill Russell And Coach Red Auerbach                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Bill Russell is an American former professional basketball player….who played center for the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association (NBA) from 1956 to 1969….as he was a five-time NBA Most Valuable Player and a 12-time All-Star….while being the centerpiece of the Celtics dynasty that won eleven NBA championships during his 13-year career…..whereas, 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 still today in 2020.  Russell also 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.  Even though Russell never averaged more than 19.0 points per game or shot as much as 47 percent in any season in an offense-friendly era…..he is without question regarded to be among the top two greatest basketball players of all time.  He is 6 ft 10 in (2.08 m) tall, with a 7 ft 4 in (2.24 m) wingspan…..which made his shot-blocking and man-to-man defense major reasons for the Celtics’ domination of the NBA during his career…..who was equally notable for his rebounding  abilities…..as he led the NBA in rebounds four times….while having 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.                                                                                                                                                  

NBA – 2013 – Boston Celtics Special Film – “Red And Me” – Part 2 – The Story Of Bill Russell And Coach Red Auerbach

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 (1966–69) stint as player-coach for the Celtics….thus becoming the first black coach in North American professional sports….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 is one of seven players in history to win an NCAA Championship, an NBA Championship and an Olympic gold medal.  He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the  National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.  He was selected into the NBA 25th Anniversary Team in 1971….and the NBA 35th Anniversary Team in 1980….and named as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996….while being one of only four players to receive all three honors. In 2007, he was enshrined in the FIBA Hall of Fame. In Russell’s honor the NBA renamed the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player trophy in 2009….as it is now the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award.                                                                                                                                                                                    

NBA – 1957 To 1969 – Special Film Featuring Red Auerbach + Bill Russell – “On The Celtics Mystique” – With 11 Titles In 13 Years

Russell was ignored by college recruiters….while receiving no offers….that is until recruiter Hal DeJulio from the University of San Francisco (USF) watched him play in a high school game…..and albeit he was unimpressed by Russell’s meager scoring and “atrocious fundamentals”…..but sensed that the young  center had an extraordinary instinct for the game, especially in the clutch…..so, he offered Russell a scholarship….which he eagerly accepted.  Sports journalist John Taylor described it as a watershed event in Russell’s life…..as it gave him a realization that basketball was his chance to escape poverty and racism…..and as a consequence, Russell swore to make the best of it.  At USF, Russell became the new starting center for coach Phil Woolpert…..who emphasized defense and deliberate half-court play….which favored Russell’s exceptional defensive skills…..as Woolpert’s choice of how to deploy his players was unaffected by their skin color…..when in 1954, he became the 1st coach of a major college basketball squad to start three black players….Russell, K. C. Jones and Hal Perry.  In his USF years, Russell took advantage of his relative lack of bulk to develop a unique defensive style….when 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…..while combining the stature and shot-blocking skills of a center with the foot speed of a guard….that is how Russell became the centerpiece of a USF team that soon became a force in college basketball.  After USF kept Holy Cross star Tom Heinsohn scoreless in an entire half, Sports Illustrated wrote, “If Bill Russell ever learns to hit the basket, they’re going to have to rewrite the rules.”  The NCAA did in fact rewrite rules in response to Russell’s dominant play by widening the lane 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…..as basket interference was now prohibited….cuz the truth be known, the NCAA pays close attention to college basketball superstars…..as evidenced by how many other rule changes have been made to counter the dominant play of big men….. with two examples being goaltending in response to George Mikan in 1945….and prohibiting the dunk shot due to Lew Alcindor in 1967….although the latter rule was later repealed.  However, the games were often difficult for the USF squad….as Russell and his black teammates became targets of racist jeers, particularly on the road.  In one incident, hotels in Oklahoma City refused to admit Russell and his black teammates while they were in town for the 1954 All-College Tournament….when in protest, the whole team decided to camp out in a closed college dorm….which was later called an important bonding experience for the group.  Decades later, Russell explained that his experiences hardened him against abuse of all kinds…..saying “I never permitted myself to be a victim”.  Racism also shaped his lifelong paradigm as a team player. “At that time”, he has said, “it was never acceptable that a black player was the best. That did not happen … My junior year in college, I had what I thought was the one of the best college seasons ever. We won 28 out of 29 games. We won the National Championship. I was the [Most Valuable Player] at the Final Four. I was first team All American. I averaged over 20 points and over 20 rebounds, and I was the only guy in college blocking shots. So after the season was over, they had a Northern California banquet, and they picked another center as Player of the Year in Northern California. Well, that let me know that if I were to accept these as the final judges of my career I would die a bitter old man.” So he made a conscious decision, he said, to put the team first and foremost….and not worry about individual achievements.  On the hardwood, his experiences were far more pleasant. Russell led USF to NCAA championships    in 1955 and 1956….which included a string of 55 consecutive victories…..as he became known for his strong defense and shot-blocking skills……when once denying 13 shots in a game….that is when  UCLA  coach John Wooden called Russell “the greatest defensive man I’ve ever seen” During his college career, Russell averaged 20.7 points per game and 20.3 rebounds per game.                                                   

NCAAM Basketball – 1956 – National Championship Game Highlights – Iowa Vs San Francisco – With Bill Russell 26pts 27reb 20blks 3stl 1a Double-Triple-Double

 

NCAAM Basketball- 1953 To 1956 – Mojo Films Greatest College Basketball Careers Special – The Story Of Bill Russell’s University Of San Francisco Career

Besides basketball, Russell represented USF in track and field events…..as he was a standout in the high jump….while ranking the 7th-best high jumper in the world in 1956 (his graduation year) according to Track & Field News….as this was despite not competing in Olympic high-jump competition that year….even though Russell won high jump titles at the Central California AAU meet….the Pacific AAU meet….and the West Coast Relays…..where one of his highest jumps occurred….when he achieved a mark of 6 feet 9 14 inches (2.06 m)…..which tied Charlie Dumas….who would later in the year win gold in the Melbourne Olympics for the United States….and became the first person to high-jump 7 feet (2.13 m).  Like fellow world-class high-jumpers of that era, Russell did not use the Fosbury Flop high-jump technique with which all high jump world records after 1978 have been set.  Russell also competed in the 440 yards (402.3 m) race…in which he recorded a time of 49.6 seconds…..which was worthy of “world class” status.                                                                                                                                                        

NBA – 1961 – Special Highlight – Bill Russell Jumps Over A Player From Near The Free Throw Line

The Harlem Globetrotters invited Russell to join their exhibition basketball squad. Russell, who was sensitive to any racial prejudice, was enraged by the fact that owner Abe Saperstein would only discuss the matter with Woolpert. While Saperstein spoke to Woolpert in a meeting, Globetrotters assistant coach Harry Hanna tried to entertain Russell with jokes. Russell, however, was livid after this snub and declined the offer. He reasoned that if Saperstein was too smart to speak with him, then he was too smart to play for Saperstein. Instead, Russell made himself eligible for the 1956 NBA draft.                                                             

NBA – 1956 To 1969 – Foobas Sports Film – “The Ultimate Bill Russell MixTape” 

In the 1956 NBA 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.  In retrospect, Auerbach’s thoughts were unorthodox….cuz in that day, centers and forwards were defined by their offensive output….while their ability to play defense was secondary.   Boston’s chances of getting Russell seemed slim however….for the Celtics had finished second in the previous season….and the worst teams had the highest draft picks….as the Celtics had slipped too low in the draft order to pick Russell.  In addition, Auerbach had already used his territorial pick to acquire talented forward Tom Heinsohn.                         

NBA – 1956 To 1969 – SportzCases Special Film – Bill Russell’s Defensive Highlights

NBA – 1956 To 1969 – Non Stop Sports Special – “How Good Was Bill Russell?”                                                       

Auerbach, however, knew that the Rochester Royals…..who owned the 1st draft pick, already had a strong rebounder in Maurice Stokes….and were looking for an outside shooting guard….plus they were unwilling to pay Russell the $25,000 signing bonus he requested….so, Celtics owner Walter A. Brown contacted Rochester owner Les Harrison….and received an assurance that the Royals could not afford Russell….as they instead would draft Sihugo Green.   Auerbach later claimed that Brown offered Harrison guaranteed performances of the Ice Capades if they did not draft Russell….as it is difficult to verify or disprove this…. but it is clear that the Royals underrated Russell.  The St. Louis Hawks, who owned the 2nd pick, drafted Russell, but were vying for Celtics center Ed Macauley….who was a six-time All-Star with roots in St. Louis…..so, Auerbach agreed to trade Macauley…..who had also 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 St Louis called Auerbach later and demanded more in the trade….when not only did he want Macauley….who was the Celtics premier player at the time…..plus, he wanted Cliff Hagan, who had been serving in the military for three years….and had not yet played for the Celtics…..when after great 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….thus, in one night, the Celtics managed to draft three future Hall of Fame players in 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.                                                                                  

NBA – 1956 To 1969 – NBA Films Special – “NBA Vintage Bill Russell”                                                                     

Before his NBA rookie year, Russell was the captain of the U.S. national basketball team that competed at the 1956 Summer Olympics….which would be held in November and December in Melbourne, Australia in the Southern Hemisphere.  Avery Brundage, head of the International Olympic Committee, argued that Russell had already signed a professional contract….and thus was no longer an amateur….but Russell prevailed…..as he had the option to skip the tournament and play a full season for the Celtics….but he was determined to play in the Olympics. He later commented that he would have participated in the high jump if he had been snubbed by the basketball team.  Under head coach Gerald Tucker, Russell helped the national team win the gold medal in Melbourne by defeating the Soviet Union 89–55 in the final game. The United States dominated the tournament….while winning by an average of 53.5 points per game. Russell led the team in scoring while averaging 14.1 points per game for the competition.  His former USF and future Celtics teammate K. C. Jones, joined him on the Olympic squad and contributed 10.9 points per game.  Due to Russell’s Olympic commitment, he could not join the Celtics for the 1956–57 season until December.                                                                                                                                                        

Olympics – 1956 – Melbourne Games – Mens Basketball – USSR Vs USA – With C Bill Russell

After rejoining the Celtics, Russell played 48 games, averaging 14.7 points per game and a league-high 19.6 rebounds per game.  During this season, the Celtics featured five future Hall-of-Fame players in center Russell, forwards Heinsohn and Frank Ramsey and guards Bill Sharman and Bob Cousy….as K.C. Jones did not play for the Celtics until 1958 because of military service.  Russell’s first Celtics game came on Dec. 22, 1956, against the St. Louis Hawks, led by star forward Bob Pettit….who would come to hold several all-time scoring records….when Auerbach assigned Russell to shut down the Hawks’ main scorer ….as the rookie impressed the Boston crowd with his man-to-man defense and shot-blocking…..for In previous years, the Celtics had been a high-scoring team….but lacked the defensive presence needed to close out tight games…..however, with the added defensive presence of Russell, the Celtics had laid the foundation for a dynasty….when the team utilized a strong defensive approach to the game….while forcing opposing teams to commit many turnovers…..which led to many many easy points on fast breaks.  The truth is that Russell was an elite help defender….who allowed the Celtics to play the so-called “Hey, Bill” defense…..where whenever a Celtic requested additional defensive help, he would shout “Hey, Bill!” …..and Russell was so quick that he could run over for a quick double team and make it back in time if the opponents tried to find the open man.  He also became famous for his shot-blocking skills…. to which pundits called his blocks “Wilsonburgers”….which referred to the Wilson NBA basketballs he “shoved back into the faces of opposing shooters”.  This skill also allowed the other Celtics to play their men aggressively….and if they were beaten, they knew that Russell was guarding the basket.  This approach allowed the Celtics to finish with a 44–28 regular season record….which was the team’s 2nd-best record since beginning play in the 1946–47 season….and simply put, guaranteed a post-season appearance every season of Bill Russell’s career.                                                                                                          

NBA – 1956 To 1969 – Special – “Bill Russell Block Art”                                                                                                    

At the same time, Russell received a great deal of negative publicity as a player….as he was notorious for his public surliness and judgmental attitude towards others…..and because Russell ignored virtually any well-wisher who approached him home or away, not to mention the vast majority of media….for his autograph was among the most difficult to secure of any pro athlete of his time. Constantly provoked by New York Knicks center Ray Felix during a game, he complained to coach Auerbach, who told him to take matters into his own hands…..so, after the next provocation, Russell pounded Felix to the point of unconsciousness….while paying a modest $25 fine…..and was rarely the target of cheap fouls thereafter.  Russell had a more cordial relationship with many of his teammates with the notable exception of Heinsohn, his old rival and fellow rookie…..as Heinsohn felt that Russell resented him because the former was named the 1957 NBA Rookie of the Year…..whereas many people thought that Russell was more important to the team even though he had only played half the season. Russell also ignored Heinsohn’s request for an autograph on behalf of his cousin…..and openly said to Heinsohn that he deserved half of his $300 Rookie of the Year check…..as the relationship between the two was tenuous at best.  However, despite their different ethnic backgrounds and lack of common off-court interests, his relationship with Celtics point guard and fan favorite Bob Cousy was amicable.                                                            

NBA – 1957 – NBA Finals Highlights – Boston Celtics Vs St Louis Hawks – Featuring Celtic Rookie C Bill Russell

In Game 1 of the Eastern Division Finals, the Celtics met the Syracuse Nationals, who were led by Dolph Schayes. In Russell’s first NBA playoff game, he finished with 16 points and 31 rebounds, along with a reported seven blocks….when at the time, blocks were not yet an officially registered statistic.  After the Celtics’ 108–89 victory, Schayes quipped, “How much does that guy make a year? It would be to our advantage if we paid him off for five years to get away from us in the rest of this series.”   The Celtics swept the Nationals in three games to earn the franchise’s 1st appearance in the NBA Finals.  In the NBA Finals, the Celtics met the St. Louis Hawks….who were again led by Bob Pettit…..as well as former Celtic Ed Macauley.  The teams split the first six games….as the tension was so high that, in Game 3, Celtics coach Auerbach punched his colleague Ben Kerner and received a $300 fine.  In the highly competitive Game 7, Russell tried his best to slow down Pettit….but it was Heinsohn who scored 37 points and kept the Celtics alive…..however, Russell contributed by completing the famous “Coleman Play”…where, Russell ran down Hawks guard Jack Coleman…..who had received an outlet pass at mid-court….and blocked his shot despite the fact that Russell had been standing at his own baseline when the ball was thrown to Coleman…..when the block preserved Boston’s slim 103–102 lead with 40-odd seconds left to play in regulation…..thus saving the game for the Celtics In the 2nd overtime….as both teams were in serious foul trouble….while Heinsohn had fouled out…..and the Hawks were so depleted that they had only 7 players left…..then with the Celtics leading 125–123 with one second left, the Hawks had the ball at their own baseline…..when reserve guard Alex Hannum threw a long alley oop pass to Pettit…..and Pettit’s tip-in rolled indecisively on the rim for several seconds before rolling out again. ….and the Celtics won their 1st NBA Championship.                                                                                                                                                

NBA – 1958 – NBA Finals Highlights – Boston Celtics Vs St Louis Hawks – Featuring Celtics C Bill Russell

At the start of the 1957–58 season, the Celtics won 14 straight games….and continued to succeed…..as Russell averaged 16.6 points per game and a league-record average of 22.7 rebounds per game.  An interesting phenomenon began that year….when Russell was voted the NBA Most Valuable Player….but was only named to the All-NBA Second Team…..for this would occur repeatedly throughout his career…. as the NBA reasoned that other centers were better all-round players than Russell…..but no player was more valuable to his team. The Celtics won 49 games and easily made the 1st berth in the 1958 NBA Playoffs…..and they made the 1958 NBA Finals against their familiar rivals, the St. Louis Hawks.  The teams split the first two games….but then Russell went down with a foot injury in Game 3….and only returned for Game 6…..as the Celtics surprisingly won Game 4….but the Hawks prevailed in Games 5 and 6….with Pettit scoring 50 points in the deciding Game 6.                                                                                       

NBA – 1957 – NBA Finals Highlights – Boston Celtics Vs St Louis Hawks

In the following 1958–59 season, Russell continued his strong play, averaging 16.7 points per game and 23.0 rebounds per game in the regular season.  The Celtics broke a league record by winning 52 games…. and Russell’s strong performance once again helped lead the Celtics through the post-season….as they returned to the NBA Finals…..when they recaptured the NBA title by sweeping the Minneapolis Lakers 4–0…..after which  Lakers head coach John Kundla praised Russell……stating, “We don’t fear the Celtics without Bill Russell. Take him out and we can beat them…”He’s the guy who whipped us psychologically.”                                                                                                                                                                       

NBA – 1956 To 1969 – Misiek Movie Show Special – Bill Russell Career Highlights

In the 1959–60 season, the NBA witnessed the debut of legendary 7 ft 1 in (2.16 m) Philadelphia Warriors center Wilt Chamberlain…..who averaged a record 37.6 points per game in his rookie year.  On November 7, 1959, Russell’s Celtics hosted Chamberlain’s Warriors…..as pundits called the match-up between the best offensive and defensive centers “The Big Collision” and “Battle of the Titans” Both men awed onlookers with “nakedly awesome athleticism”…..and while Chamberlain outscored Russell 30 to 22, the Celtics won 115–106…..and the match was called a “new beginning of basketball.”  The match-up between Russell and Chamberlain became one of basketball’s greatest rivalries.  On February 5, 1960, Russell grabbed 51 rebounds in a 124-100 win over the Syracuse Nationals.  It was the record for most rebounds in a single game until Chamberlain grabbed 55 rebounds.  In that season, Russell’s Celtics won a record 59 regular season games….which included a then-record tying 17 game win streak….and met Chamberlain’s Warriors in the Eastern Division Finals…..when Chamberlain outscored Russell by 81 points in the series….but the Celtics walked off with a 4–2 series win.  In the 1960 Finals, the Celtics outlasted the Hawks 4–3….and won their 3rd championship in four years…..as Russell grabbed an NBA Finals-record 40 rebounds in Game 2….and added 22 points and 35 rebounds in the deciding Game 7, a 122–103 victory for Boston.                                                                                                                                                

NBA – 1997 – NBC Sports Special – Ahmad Rashad Interviews Wilt Chamberlain And Bill Russell – To Answer The Question Of Who Was Better

In the 1960–61 season, Russell averaged 16.9 points and 23.9 rebounds per game….while leading his team to a regular season mark of 57–22…..as the Celtics earned another post-season appearance….where they defeated the Syracuse Nationals 4–1 in the Eastern Division Finals…..and then the Celtics made good use of the fact that the Los Angeles Lakers had exhausted St. Louis in a long seven-game Western Conference Finals….as the Celtics convincingly won the NBA title in five games.  In the following season, Russell scored a career-high 18.9 points per game….while accompanied by 23.6 rebounds per game.   While his rival Chamberlain had a record-breaking season of 50.4 points per game…..including a 100-point game….and the Celtics became the 1st team to win 60 games in a season…..as Russell was voted as the NBA’s Most Valuable Player.  In the post-season, the Celtics met the Philadelphia Warriors with Chamberlain….as Russell did his best to slow down the 50-points-per-game scoring Warriors center….. when in the pivotal Game 7, Russell managed to hold Chamberlain to only 22 points (28 below his season average) while scoring 19 himself. The game was tied with two seconds left when Sam Jones sank a clutch shot that won the Celtics the series.                                                                                                                      

NBA – 1956 To 1969 – Special – “Why Bill Russell Is The Greatest Basketball Player Of All Time”                              

In the 1962 NBA Finals, the Celtics met the Los Angeles Lakers with star forward Elgin Baylor and star guard Jerry West….as the teams split the first six games….when in Game 6, Russell recorded 19 points, 24 rebounds and 10 assists as the Celtics won 119-105…..then in Game 7 the score was tied with one second before the end of regular time….when Lakers guard Rod Hundley faked a shot and instead passed out to Frank Selvy….who missed an open eight-foot last-second shot that would have won L.A. the title.  Though the game was tied, Russell had the daunting task of defending against Baylor with little frontline help….as the three best Celtics forwards Loscutoff, Heinsohn and Tom Sanders, had fouled out….then in overtime, the 4th forward, Frank Ramsey, fouled out trying to guard Elgin Baylor….so Russell was completely robbed of his usual four-men wing rotation…..but Russell and little-used 5th forward Gene Guarilia successfully pressured Baylor into missed shots…..and Russell finished with a clutch performance….while scoring 30 points and tying his own NBA Finals record with 40 rebounds in a 110–107 overtime win.                                                                                                                                                               

NBA – 1962 – NBA Finals Game 7 Highlights – Los Angeles Lakers Vs Boston Celtics – Featuring Bill Russell’s 40 Pts + 30 Rebs

 

The Celtics lost playmaker Bob Cousy to retirement after the 1962–63 season….but they drafted John Havlicek….and once again, the Celtics were powered by Russell….who averaged 16.8 points and 23.6 rebounds per game….while winning his 4th regular-season MVP title…..and earning MVP honors at the 1963 NBA All-Star Game following his 19-point, 24-rebound performance for the East…..then Russell recorded his 1st career triple-double after putting up 17 points, 19 rebounds and 10 assists in a 129-123 win over the Knicks.  At that time, he became the 4th player in Celtics history to have a triple-double…. while joining Ed Macauley, Bob Cousy and K.C. Jones.  The Celtics reached the 1963 NBA Finals….where they again defeated the Los Angeles Lakers, this time in six games.                                                                                          

NBA – 1965 NBA Finals Game 1 – Boston Celtics Vs Los Angeles Lakers – With Chris Schenkel + Bob Cousy

In the following 1963–64 season, the Celtics posted a league-best 58–22 record in the regular season…..as Russell scored 15.0 ppg and grabbed a career-high 24.7 rebounds per game….while leading the NBA in rebounds for the 1st time since Chamberlain entered the league.  Boston defeated the Cincinnati Royals 4–1 to earn another NBA Finals appearance….and then won against Chamberlain’s newly relocated San Francisco Warriors 4–1.  It was their 6th consecutive and 7th title in Russell’s 8th year….. which was a streak that had not been reached in any U.S. professional sports league…..as Russell later called the Celtics’ defense the best of all time.                                                                                                                        

NBA – 1964 – NBA Finals Game 4 – Boston Celtics Vs San Francisco Warriors – 2nd Half

Russell again excelled during the 1964–65 season…..as the Celtics won a league-record 62 games….and Russell averaged 14.1 points and 24.1 rebounds per game….while winning his 2nd consecutive rebounding title and his 5th MVP award.  In the 1965 NBA Playoffs, the Celtics played the Eastern Division Finals against the Philadelphia 76’ers….who had recently traded for Wilt Chamberlain…..when Russell held Chamberlain to a pair of field goals in the first three quarters of Game 3…..then in Game 5, Russell contributed 28 rebounds, 10 blocks, seven assists and six steals….however, that playoff series ended in a dramatic Game 7…..when 5 seconds before the end of the game….and the 76’rs were trailing 110–109…. but Russell turned over the ball….however, when the 76’ers Hall of Fame guard Hal Greer inbounded the ball…..that is when John Havlicek stole the ball….thus causing Celtics commentator Johnny Most to scream “Havlicek stole the ball! It’s all over! Johnny Havlicek stole the ball!”.  After the Division Finals, the Celtics had an easier time in the NBA Finals, winning 4–1 against the Los Angeles Lakers with Jerry West and Elgin Baylor.                                                                                                                                                    

NBA 1962 – NBA Films Special – “He Stole The Ball…Havlicek Stole The Ball” – 50 Year Anniversary

In the following 1965–66 season, the Celtics won their 8th consecutive title…..as Russell’s team again beat Chamberlain’s Philadelphia 76’ers 4 games to 1 in the Division Finals…..and went on to win the NBA Finals in a tight 7-game showdown against the Los Angeles Lakers…..with Russell scoring 25 points and grabbing 32 rebounds in a 95–93 win in the deciding 7th game.  During the season, Russell contributed 12.9 points and 22.8 rebounds per game. This was the first time in seven years that he failed to average at least 23 rebounds a game.                                                                                                                                                   

NBA – 1966 – NBA Finals Game 7 Highlights – Featuring Celtics C Bill Russell                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Celtics coach Red Auerbach retired before the 1966–67 season. He had initially wanted his old player Frank Ramsey to coach the Celtics, but Ramsey was too occupied running his three lucrative nursing homes….when his 2nd choice was Bob Cousy…..who declined the invitation stating that he did not want to coach his former teammates…..and 3rd choice Tom Heinsohn also said no, because he did not think he could handle the often surly Russell…..however, Heinsohn proposed that Russell himself as a player-coach…. and when Auerbach asked his center, he said yes.  On April 16, 1966, Bill Russell agreed to become head coach of the Boston Celtics….when a public announcement was made two days later.  Russell thus became the first black head coach in NBA history and commented to journalists…. “I wasn’t offered the job because I am a Negro, I was offered it because Red figured I could do it.”  The Celtics’ championship streak ended at eight in his first full season as head coach when Wilt Chamberlain’s Philadelphia 76’ers won a record-breaking 68 regular season games…. and beat the Celtics 4–1 in the 1967 Eastern Finals….as the 76’ers simply outpaced the Celtics when they shredded the famed Boston defense by scoring 140 points in the clinching Game 5 win.  Russell acknowledged the first real loss of his career (he had been injured in 1958 when the Celtics lost the NBA Finals) by visiting Chamberlain in the locker room, shaking his hand and saying, “Great” However, the game still ended on a high note for Russell. After the loss, he led his grandfather through the Celtics locker rooms….and the two saw white Celtics player John Havlicek taking a shower next to his black teammate Sam Jones and discussing the game…..when suddenly, Jake Russell broke down crying. Asked by his grandson what was wrong, his grandfather replied how proud he was of him, being coach of an organization in which blacks and whites coexisted in harmony.                                                                                                                        

NBA – 1966 – NBA Season * Playoffs * Finals Special – Bill Russell 1966 Playoffs And Season Highlights

In Russell’s final season of 1967–68, his numbers slowly declined, but at age 34….he still tallied 12.5 points per game and 18.6 rebounds per game (the latter good for the 3rd highest average in the league).  In the Eastern Division Finals, the 76’ers had the better record than the Celtics….and were slightly favored…..but then, national tragedy struck on April 4, with the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr…..and with eight of the ten starting players on 76’ers and Celtics being black, both teams were in deep shock….and there were calls to cancel the series.  In a game called as “unreal and devoid of emotion”, the Sixers lost 127–118 on April 5…..then in Game 2, Philadelphia evened the series with a 115–106 win….and followed with wins in Games 3 and 4….as Chamberlain was suspiciously often defended by Celtics backup center Wayne Embry….which caused the press to speculate Russell was worn down….  when prior to Game 5, the Celtics seemed dead….while no NBA team had ever come back from a 3–1 deficit…..however, the Celtics rallied back, winning Game 5 by 122–104 and Game 6 by 114–106….after being powered by a spirited Havlicek….and helped by a terrible 76’ers shooting slump….then in Game 7, 15,202 stunned Philadelphia fans witnessed a historic 100–96 defeat….while making it the 1st time in NBA history a team lost a series after leading 3–1….as  Russell limited Chamberlain to only two shot attempts in the 2nd half…..and despite this, the Celtics were leading only 97–95 with 34 seconds left….when Russell closed out the game with several consecutive clutch plays…..as he made a free throw, blocked a shot by 76’ers player Chet Walker, grabbed a rebound off a miss by Hal Greer….and finally passed the ball to teammate Sam Jones….who scored to clinch the win.  Boston then beat the Los Angeles Lakers 4–2 in the NBA Finals….thus giving Russell his 10th title in 12 years.  For his efforts Russell was named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year.  After losing for the 5th straight time against Russell and his Celtics, Hall-of-Fame Lakers guard Jerry West stated, “If I had a choice of any basketball player in the league, my # 1 choice has to be Bill Russell. Bill Russell never ceases to amaze me.”

 

NBA – 2002 – ESPN NBA Reporter Jackie MacMullen Interviews Celtics HOF G Bob Cousy – On His Relationship With C Bill Russell

However, Russell seemed to reach a breaking point during the 1968–69 season….as he was shocked by the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy….while being disillusioned by the Vietnam War…. and weary from his increasingly stale marriage to his wife Rose….as the couple later divorced.  He was convinced that the U.S. was a corrupt nation and that he was wasting his time playing something as superficial as basketball.  He was 15 pounds overweight, skipped mandatory NBA coach meetings and was generally lacking energy….when after a New York Knicks game, he complained of intense pain and was diagnosed with acute exhaustion…..but  Russell pulled himself together and put up 9.9 points and 19.3 rebounds per game….as the aging Celtics stumbled through the regular season. Their 48–34 record was the team’s worst since 1955–56….and they entered the playoffs as only the 4th-seeded team in the East.  In the playoffs, however, Russell and his Celtics achieved upsets over the Philadelphia 76’ers and New York Knicks to earn a meeting with the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals….when. L.A. now featured new recruit Wilt Chamberlain next to perennial stars Baylor and West….and were heavily favored.  In the 1st two games, Russell ordered not to double-team West….who used the freedom to score 53 and 41 points in the Game 1 and Game 2 Laker wins…..when Russell then ordered to double-team West….and Boston won Game 3. In Game 4….as the Celtics were trailing by one point with seven seconds left and the Lakers having the ball….but then Baylor stepped out of bounds and in the last play of the game, Sam Jones used a triple screen by Bailey Howell, Larry Siegfried and Havlicek and hit a buzzer beater which equalized the series….as the teams split the next two games….so it all came down to Game 7 in L.A…..where Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke angered and motivated the Celtics by putting “proceedings of Lakers victory ceremony” on the game leaflets.  Russell used a copy as extra motivation and told his team to play a running game, because in that case, not the better, but the more determined team was going to win.  The Celtics were ahead by nine points with five minutes remaining….plus, West was heavily limping after a Game 5 thigh injury and Chamberlain had left the game with an injured leg.  West then hit one basket after the other and cut the lead to one….and Chamberlain asked to return to the game….however, Lakers coach Bill van Breda Kolff kept Chamberlain on the bench until the end of the game….while saying later that he wanted to stay with the lineup responsible for the comeback….and the Celtics held on for a 108–106 victory….as and Russell claimed his eleventh championship in 13 years.  At age 35, Bill Russell contributed 21 rebounds in his last NBA game…..and after the game, Russell went over to the distraught West….who had scored 42 points and was named the only NBA Finals MVP in history from the losing team….and clasped his hand and tried to soothe him.  Days later, 30,000 enthusiastic Celtics fans cheered their returning heroes….but Russell was not there….as the man who said he owed the public nothing ended his career and cut all ties to the Celtics.  It was so surprising that even Red Auerbach was blindsided….and as a consequence, he made the “mistake” of drafting guard Jo Jo White instead of a center.  Although White became a standout Celtics player, the Celtics lacked an All-Star center and went just 34–48 in the next season and failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 1950.                                           

NBA – 1969 – NBA Finals Highlights – Los Angeles Lakers Vs Boston Celtics

When you consider what I have written about Bill Russell, along with the videos that I have shared in this story herewith….it becomes glaringly obvious that he more than deserves to be in ANY conversation with Michael Jordan as to who was the Greatest Player Of All Time (GOAT)…..while without question and void of ANY argument…..Bill Russell was the Most Valuable Player Of All Time (MVPOAT)…..and anyway, our Bone Daddy still responds to all Jordan pundits in regards to who is the GOAT in the history of organized basketball in the same way that he has since being a young boy in West Texas watching the NBA, and especially the Celtics, on television throughout the years of Russell’s eight consecutive NBA titles from 1959 through 1966 with a simple phrase…..”11 rings vs 6 rings”…..so, we ask you….which is better!?!  

 

NBA – 2017 – Special – Bill Russell At the 1st NBA Awards Ceremony – “I Would Kick Your Ass”
 

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