Bill Russell is one of the greatest basketball players that ever played the game. The former Celtics centre is the player with the most number of championships (11) in NBA history. Russell was the centrepiece of the Celtics dynasty formed in the late ’50s and ’60s. They dominated the league for more than a decade and won 8 championships in a row, a record that has not been broken till today.
Russell won 11 championships in 13 years and one of his most iconic wins was in his last season when he won a championship against the Lakers and long-time rival Wilt Chamberlain. Russell was the first African American to play and coach for the same team. He took over as coach from Red Auerbach, who is one of the greatest coaches of all time, and led the Celtics to 2 championships as a player-coach.
Russell was known for his dominance on the defensive end on the floor and despite not being a great scorer ( averaging only 15.1 points for his career), he was considered a superstar in the league. He was also a great rebounder and is one of 2 players that has had more than 50m rebounds in a game ( the other player is Wilt Chamberlain). He is second all-time in total rebounds as well as rebounds per game. Russell holds the record for the most rebounds in an NBA finals game, with 40 and he didn’t do it once but twice ( against the St Louis Hawks in 1960 and Los Angeles Lakers in 1962).
Bill Russell was not only great on the court but off the court as well. Playing basketball in the ’50s and ’60s was not easy with racism being prominent at the time. Russell had great support from his white coach Red Auerbach. Red once refused to stay at a hotel when management said they would not let black players stay there. Having a white man with a progressive mindset at the time, protected Russell to a degree and allowed him to become the superstar that he became.
Russell also stood in support of Muhammad Ali when he refused to be drafted and go to war. The NBA legend is well respected by players that came after him and are seen as a man that paved the way for black athletes. In his honour, the NBA renamed the finals MVP award to the Bill Russell Finals MVP award.
Russell has been inducted into the hall of fame as a player and a coach. The 11-time champion and 5 time MVP has made his mark on the game and it will never be forgotten. We often talk about the GOAT and names that come up usually include Michael Jordan and LeBron James in this era. I think that Bill Russell with the most championships in NBA history ( as a player) deserves to be in that conversation along with many greats whose contributions and accomplishments in the game of basketball have gradually been forgotten.