bill russellone of the greatest legends in the history of the NBA, has passed away this Sunday at the age of 88. emblem player of the boston celtics who dominated American basketball in the 1950s and 1960s, Russell remains today as the player with the most NBA titles, no less than eleven (1957, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, these last two as coach-player). In addition, he was the MVP of the season five times and played 12 All Star Games.
Before that Russell won two college championships (NCAA) with the University of San Francisco in 1955 and 1956 and hung an olympic gold with the United States team at the 1956 Melbourne Games.
Russell is regarded as the winning athlete par excellence. He was so intensely involved in his sport that he almost got sick, to the point that he was throwing up before almost every match. His desire to win was enormous. “I always follow black customs because I go out to bury my adversaries,” he said. Of course, his leadership towards success did not go through individual selfishness. Absolutely dominant in defense (few like him managed to stop the unstoppable Wilt Chamberlin, for example) and excellent in rebounding and blocking, he left the scoring for his teammates. He finished his career with an unremarkable 15.1 points on average, but his performance on rebounds was brutal (average of 22.5) and made the stopper an unknown weapon until then. He was not excessively tall (2.08) but his 2.24 wingspan they made him an almost impossible wall for his rivals to overcome. Too bad for him, the NBA didn’t start tracking this stat until 1973.
“Russell defended as picasso painted or how Hemingway wrote”, he said of him Aram Goudsouzyan in his book ‘King of the Court: Bill Russell and the Basketball Revolution’. “Until Russell the game stayed close to the ground. Never again from him”. His work behind him was what allowed the display of the plethora of talented players that the Celtics had in those years, such as Bob Cousy either John Havlicek. Of course, since 2009 the trophy for the best player in the NBA has been named after him.
He was also an active defender of social rights. Born in the Deep South (Louisiana) before immigrating to California as a child, Russell was not the first black man to play in the NBA, but he was the first big black star in the league. And he took advantage of that notoriety to defend the civil rights of his race. In 1963 he participated in the Martin Luther King’s March on Washingtonalthough he refused to go to the front probably because of his shy and introverted character, arrogant according to some, who did not tell him that he never signed autographs.
In 2011 the president Barack Obama awarded him the Medal of Freedom and two years later, a statue of Russell was installed in the town hall square in Bostona ‘white’ city that he helped to change with his actions.