St. Louis, the forgotten team that took down Bill Russell and Boston in the NBA

Bill Russell is a legend and his passing this year is a great loss for American basketball and world sports. In each of his public appearances, the most successful player in history was praised and praised. The city of Boston dedicated a statue to him, and every self-respecting fan heard about the great style’s dominance over the NBA in the 1950s and 60s: 11 league titles, amazing individual statistics and deep cultural influence.

Between 1957 and 1966, the Celtics won 9 titles, 8 in a row with the only exception being 1958. A now-forgotten team destroyed the myth that year: St. Louis Hawks. After going to Atlanta, the Falcons became the itchy hairs of a unique dynasty. A team that holds a more or less large share in the collective memory.

Deprived of basketball today and forced to make do with the Blues in hockey and the Rams in football, St. Louis was an NBA stronghold for less than 10 years. time for Bob Pettitis 90 years old this year and his group will play in four Finals and win the title against the untouchable Celtics before the Jerry West Lakers and Elgin Baylor repeatedly go up against the Massachusetts wall.

The success of the Falcons is closely tied to that of Pettitte, who is rarely mentioned spontaneously as one of the greatest players of all time. And yet…

Proof that Bill Russell is more of a winner than Jordan or LeBron

“Playing Bob Pettit was at least as difficult as playing Wilt Chamberlain,” Bill Russell once said in the Boston Globe.

A 2m06 4 position, Pettit was an exceptional rebounder (16.2 career average) and a flashy forward who could drive any experienced defender crazy. The first ever MVP in 1956 and an 11-time All-Star, the Louisiana native is just as phenom as his rival from Boston. He can boast of scoring 50 points against Russell in the final match. Pettit had a hit in Game 6 of 1958, injuring the “Father of Defense,” slowed slightly by an ankle injury.

At the time, the local media also gleefully praised the services of the “white” Pettit against the African-American Russell. They’re careful not to remind a public that hasn’t yet been fed the steady stream of this surprising anecdote: It was the Hawks who drafted Bill Russell two years before he waived his rights to Boston for two players. Without the insistence of Big Red Auerbach, St.Louis might find themselves in the Celtics’ shoes, tearing up the NBA thanks to this fearsome duo…

Racism plagues the Falcons

Living in Missouri in the 50s and 60s can be tough when you’re not Caucasian. Lenny WilkensThe Hall of Famer says in his autobiography:

“When I came to St. Louis in 1960, I realized that things were different here. I was not served in the restaurants downtown. I received mean letters and my neighbors did everything to not welcome me or look at me.”

Within the team, managers like Pettit are passive and don’t initially do much to protect their fellow victims of racism around them. In 1962, the climate took a turn for the worse when coach Paul Seymour was instructed to reduce his role. Cleo Hill, an African-American whose talent risked outshining the team’s three white stars, Pettit, Cliff Hagan and Clyde Lovellette. Seymour refuses and is fired on the spot.

The hapless Hill, the victim of a league-wide smear campaign, will never set foot on a basketball court again. This is the beginning of the end for the Falcons in St. Louis. Symbolically, in 1968, when Martin Luther King was assassinated, they moved to Atlanta, the pastor’s birthplace, to create a new identity.

Bob Pettit is pretty rare in the media these days, if anything, he lives longer than any other legend in the league. In a 2010 interview with, he explained:

“I’m not upset that people don’t talk about us more. We’ve had some good things and less good things. I’m happy with my career. Who’s to say he won a title? Bill Russell’s team, the greatest player of all time?”

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