The legacy, the list of awards… Bill Russell, the great legend of the NBA

Bill Russell, who died on July 31, 2022 at the age of 88, was an icon of American basketball thanks to his exploits both on and off the NBA floor. Indeed, his actions off the field elevated him to the pantheon of the most influential athletes of his generation. On the occasion of the release of a Netflix documentary chronicling his life, Business Cool takes a look at the journey of one of the greatest legends in sports history.

Bill Russell’s youth

William Felton Russell, known as “Bill” Russell, was born on February 12, 1934 in Monroe, Louisiana. Faced with the segregation and racism that characterized the era, Bill decided to move with his family to Oakland, California, not far from San Francisco. If he excelled in athletics, even if his physical qualities were extraordinary at the time, he did not show a special inclination for basketball.

Bill Russell, who has great difficulty with the fundamentals of basketball, is not even kept on his college team. His resilience, a quality that will define his personality throughout his life, will allow him to integrate high school. McClymonds High School. During his first year, he persevered, if underutilized, and gradually established himself as a reference defender. He then catches the eye of a recruiter from the University of San Francisco who offers him a scholarship to join their team: young Bill’s career begins.

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Bill Russell’s Sports Career

Bill Russell’s College Career

In 1953 he joined Bill Russell’s team Donations San Francisco, where he will play four seasons. Later, he became famous for his iron defense and blocking qualities: at 2m06 he was the most feared defender in the whole country. Building on that reputation, he twice led his team to the NCAA title in 1955 and 1956, the highest collegiate collegiate mark in the United States. He is also elected MOP (Most Outstanding Player) during the team’s first crown and establishing himself as one of the future big names of basketball in the world.

If his achievements in basketball speak for him, Bill Russell also participates in athletics and excels in two events: 400 m and high jump. Crowned with his second NCAA crown in 1956, he won the high jump at the Association of American Universities competition in California, where he cleared 2m06, achieving one of the best performances of the era: rarely was there an athlete like him. existed in the period.

Despite obvious propensities for jumping and running, Bill Russell entered the 1956 NBA Draft and put aside athletics to focus 100% on basketball.

Bill Russell’s NBA career

His basketball career alone should be enough to give him a comfortable place among the greatest legends in NBA history, and more so in sports history. Eleven championships (in twelve finals) with the Boston Celtics in the history of American team sports, 12-time All-Star, the most successful player with an average of 22.5 rebounds per game in his career… The list of his achievements is ambiguous. For comparison, let’s note that Michael Jordan, who is considered the greatest player in history, won “only” six titles.

While Bill Russell’s legend was built on his individual and collective exploits with the Celtics, it should not be forgotten that his career was celebrated by his rivalry with another legend of the game, Wilt Chamberlain. The two pivots were the two symbols of the NBA at that time and contributed greatly to the development of the Major League and the game practiced worldwide.

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Bill Russell’s record

His collective record

Bill Russell is the most decorated player in NBA history with 11 league titles won with the Boston Celtics from 1957-1968. During this thirteen-year (almost) undisputed reign, only the 1958 and 1967 titles eluded him. He was also the Olympic champion in 1956 and the NCAA champion in 1955 and 1956.

His personal differences

  • 12 time All Star
  • 5 time MVP (Most Valuable Player)
  • The best rebounder in the league 4 times
  • 2nd leading rebounder in history with 21,620 rebounds
  • 1962 All-Star Game MVP
  • Athlete of the year in 1968 according to the magazine version Sports Illustrated
  • Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1975
  • In 2011, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award, was presented by Barack Obama

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Bill Russell is a legend outside of basketball

Bill Russell is also, and above all, one of the symbolic figures of the struggle for the civil rights of African Americans, along with many figures of the time, such as Muhammad Ali. Since the early 1960s, when racial segregation prevailed in the United States. When it came to the NBA, Bill Russell landed in a league that was still predominantly white. Through sports, he became a leader in the African-American community, which was the target of discriminatory measures in many states. To see a black player so dominant in the big leagues is a true revolution for North American sports.

He will not tolerate anything discriminatory in any way, going so far as to antagonize Celtics fans and the city of Boston for decades. Each passing day is another step forward in the quest for equality among all ethnic groups, so much so that in 1964 the Boston Celtics became the first team to field five black starters. Two years later, Bill Russell became the first African-American coach in the history of professional team sports in the United States and won three titles (holding the role of coach-player).

the Civil Rights Act In 1964, ending all discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin sounds like a real victory for Bill Russell and all the people who gave body and soul to get there: the greatest achievement was his life , no doubt.

Bill Russell’s legacy

Bill Russell is still considered the greatest point guard in basketball history; he was a great inspiration to all the great players (in terms of size) that came after him. If he is recognized as a true legend of this sport with his personal sporting achievements and list of awards, his political stances and his fight against segregation are undoubtedly his greatest victories and always an inspiration to new generations. a world where racism still exists.

In 2011, he became the first NBA player to receive the award Presidential Medal of Freedom, Uncle Sam’s highest civilian honor in his country, bears witness to his influence on American society during his lifetime. Despite being retired and quite old, he remains a role model for many players today. His sheer will to win has made him and will continue to be celebrated far beyond the confines of basketball, making him an icon of team sports as a whole. Following the announcement of his death, the NBA released a press release to honor the greatness of the player and man. Bill Russell is also about humility. His record has never been a reason to push himself too far, and he’ll be keen to see a proliferation of developing talent in the league.

During the 2022-23 season, thirty NBA franchises will be decorated with the number 6. This same number will be retired by all NBA franchises, a first in American basketball history, as the ultimate award sign.

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