Legendary Boston Celtics Center Bill Russell passes at age 88
The professional sports world has lost the legendary Bill Russell, considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He died July 31 at the age of 88 after reports of cardiac problems.
The 6-foot-10 center left an impressive legacy for hoop players who want to strive for greatness. William Felton Russell was born in Monroe, Louisiana, but his basketball persona was honed in the Bay Area at McClymonds High School in Oakland.
The team gave Russell his start in his basketball career after a few cuts of not making the team there and elsewhere, according to Wikipedia. Coach George Powles saw the raw talent in the future superstar, said the entry. Russell took the team to back-to-back state championships.
Although he wasn’t considered one the highest offensive scorers, it was his notable defense and shot blocks that stood out to coaches.
“To play good defense… it was told back then that you had to stay flatfooted at all times to react quickly. When I started to jump to make defensive plays and to block shots, I was initially corrected, but I stuck with it, and it paid off,” Russell said while on a California High School All- Stars Tour.
That defense took Russell to the University of San Francisco, the only university that gave him a chance during the racial climate back then. He led the team to its only two NCAA championships that still stand to this day.
Russell began his professional career when he was selected second over-all in the NBA draft by the St. Louis Hawks in 1956. He later went to the Boston Celtics and that’s where he gained his notoriety as the big, shot-blocking center. He led the team to 11 championships out of the 13 seasons he played with the team.
During this time, Russell battled regularly against his then rival Wilt Chamberlin. Russell’s Celtics hosted Chamberlain’s then Philadelphia Warriors, and commentators called the matchup between the best offensive and defensive centers “The Big Collision” and the “Battle of the Titans,” according to Wikipedia.
No one has yet been able to match Russell’s dominating record of championship rings in the NBA. Russell went on to coach and was a pioneer on and off the court.
He also stood up against racism and oppression during the civil rights era of Martin Luther King Jr. “I never permitted myself to be a victim,” Russell said.