Vale Bill Russell

Published on Mon 1 August 2022 4:38pm

Russell was not a flashy player. He was not a great scorer. He didn’t care for statistics or celebrity. His extraordinary strengths were all the unfashionable building blocks of the game: playing defence, taking rebounds, making the right pass and making the players on his team better.

Mr Wilson (4:38pm) – One of the greatest ever sportspeople died overnight: the incomparable basketball player Bill Russell. Bill Russell’s talent, character and commitment to the game were remarkable and relentless, and the team success that followed was simply astounding. Under his leadership, the Boston Celtics won eight championships in a row, from 1959 to 1966. Indeed, they won 11 times in 13 years, and Russell’s record in deciding game 7s was 10-0. In the last two of those winning campaigns he played as captain and coach, the first African American to coach a major sport league franchise.

Russell was not a flashy player. He was not a great scorer. He didn’t care for statistics or celebrity. His extraordinary strengths were all the unfashionable building blocks of the game: playing defence, taking rebounds, making the right pass and making the players on his team better. He said:

I have very little faith in cheers, what they mean and how long they will last, compared with the faith I have in my own love for the game.

Russell was consistently outspoken about racism and injustice in the United States, and in 2011 President Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

I fell in love with basketball when I was young, and at some point a family friend gave me a book chapter about Bill Russell. With no justification whatsoever, I chose to be No. 6 when I played. There has never been any part of my game or life that resemble Bill Russell’s talent, courage and class. But I did want to play and live by his example. Vale Bill Russell.

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