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Bill Russel Americas basketball legendary

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Bill Russell
Bill Russell. Photo/MARCA

Bill Russel Americas basketball  legendary

  • He was a former basketball player
  • He was a civil rights activist
  • He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame after his retirement

Who was Bill Russel?

He was one of the greatest basketball players in NBA history who was born on February 12 1934 in Monroe, Louisiana. He is best known for being the greatest winner in sports in, the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Bill led the Boston Celtics to an unprecedented 11 championships in 13 seasons and he capped his amateur career by leading the US men’s basketball team to the gold medal at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956.

Personal Life

Born in Monroe, Russel’s childhood was shaped by poor health as he battled several illnesses. At 10 years, his family moved across the country to Oakland, California where he found a job at a shipyard.

In California, life was not fair as the family expected and when Russel’s father found a better job, his wife fell ill and died. Russel was so overwhelmed as his mother was his biggest advocate who pushed him to work hard at school.

Bill Russell

Bill Russell. Photo/CelticsBlog

Up on his mother’s demise, he committed himself to studies and outside the classroom, he began playing basketball. His talent did not shine through immediately as he struggled to find playing time on the team at McClymond’s high school in Oakland.

The player earned a scholarship at the University of San Francisco and it was not long before he proved to be dominating with a scorer’s touch and ability to rebound. During his three-year varsity career, he led the team to consecutive NCAA titles.

Being in a team of whites, Russel was never embraced by Boston fans like his teammates. Even as he won on the court, Russel an outspoken backer of the Civil Rights Movement experienced struggles off of it.

The racism was too much as when they played away from home, Russel would sleep in a different hotel from the rest of his teammates.

The basketball champion was married thrice. With his first wife Rose, to whom he was married for 17 years, they had three children a daughter and two sons.

In 2010, Russel received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Country’s highest civil honour from President Barack Obama.

Russel died on July 31st 2022 at 88 years and the following month, the NBA announced his retirement and his no.6 jersey across the entire league.

Russell’s Career

A five-time NBA MVP and a 12-time all-star, Bill was the cornerstone of the Boston Celtic dynasty of the 1960s. In a total of 963 career games that Bill participated in, he averaged an astonishing 22.5 rebounds per game helping the Celtics win 11 titles during that time.

Initially, the player was a good runner and jumper and had large hands this made sense when he struggled to develop his skills as a basketball player.

In high school, he was not doing so well at the sport through his coach encouraged him t work on his fundamentals. He had worked with white authority figures who treated him negatively and this could have been the cause of his poor performance.

He put his experience behind him and soon became noted for his unusual style of defence. When he was offered a scholarship at the university, he was s decided that out of basketball, that was a chance to escape poverty and racism deciding to make the best of it.

Russel blossomed in college providing a defensive presence that helped lead USF to National Collegiate Athletic Association [NCAA] championships.

Celtics general manager and coach targeted Russel in the NBA draft which he termed as a solution to his team’s shortcomings and sure he was as his impact was immediate. The Celtics won a title in his rookie year.

Celtic kept winning and on their coach’s retirement, Russel succeeded him making him the first African American coach in NBA history as well as the first to win a title when Boston took the championship.

Bill Russell

Bill Russell. Photo/NPR

Before his retirement, he took one more championship and served as a head coach of the Seattle Supersonics. He also served as a commentator on television broadcasts of NBA games and remained active on social issues.

His autobiography, second wind: The Memoirs of an Opinionated Man [co-written with Taylor Branch] was published in 1979.

Russel was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball of Fame in 1975 and in 2010 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by the then U.S president Barrack Obama.

My passion is capturing the untold journey of global athletes from humble beginnings to superstars in their own right.

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