Death of Bill Russell (1934-2022), the most successful man in the NBA

Since 2009, the “Bill Russell Trophy” has been awarded to the best player in the NBA Finals. A trophy that has not been won by the emblematic pivot of Boston in the 60s since it was created during his last year in the event, in 1969. The fact remains that the NBA could not have given a more beautiful tribute to the most successful player in history with of his eleven NBA rings ! A five-time MVP and Olympic champion, the white-bearded sage is a history book in himself.

The anecdote is delicious. A few years ago, during a golf tournament reserved for celebrities, Hall of famer Bill Russell was apostrophized by a “people” who asked him what he thought of the titles in the cascading that the Bulls got by Michael Jordan. Bill Russell stared at him before answering: “Not much…”

Six titles, which was not enough to impress someone who had won eleven in his career in Boston, at a time when Red Auerbach’s boys were crushing the League.

After four years at the University of San Francisco, William Felton Russell was drafted in the 3rd position by the Hawks in Saint-Louis, in 1956. Another time. American basketball falls into an opposition between two divisions. With only eight teams – including Syracuse, Fort Wayne, St. Louis and Rochester – the competition should be low. In most of these cities, basketball is now almost non-existent, except at the university level.

“But that doesn’t take away from Bill’s success”cup John Havlicek who would win eight titles with Boston between 1963 and 76. “He changed the pivot position like the late Hakeem Olajuwon will do again. »

The Black Beast by Wilt Chamberlain

After the draft, the native of Monroe (Louisiana) was sent to Boston where Red Auerbach will shape a unique interior. With Bob Cousy and Bill Russell, Boston had a pair of magic. The second would play twelve Finals between 1957 and 1969 and stack titles with insolent success. His succession of colleagues has been lost in history: Bill Sharman, Sam Jones, KC Jones, John Havlicek…

When questioning characters like Jerry West or Paul Seymour, the Syracuse coach, who faced Russell in the Sixties, the comments were always a review. “There is no one bigger, stronger, faster, smarter and more competitive than Bill. »

In 1957, during the playoffs series, Paul Seymour stopped aligning his starting pivot against Celtics star Johnny Kerr as he was mocked during the regular season… Jerry West still has a soft spot for to Russell, even though he played him a funny trick. in 1969: beaten by the Celtics for the title, West still won the first Finals MVP trophy awarded by the League when Russell had just won his eleventh ring!

The Celtics star never got this award. Consolation: since June 2009, this trophy now bears his name. David Stern made that decision at the All-Star Game in Phoenix. “Who else but him can put his name on a prestigious trophy? Bill is one of the greatest players in the NBA, one of the greatest champions in the history of basketball.

Russell, 75 at the time, cried his eyes out as he said: “I am proud to know that my name will be associated with this trophy for a long time. »

The wise old man spent time in Arizona recounting his NBA Finals. Finals from another era whose photos may have yellowed but darkened tons of film and paper before being archived in the history books. Glorious past rich in testimony of Bob Cousy, luxurious partner for the first six titles: “Bill is more than just an amazing player. He doesn’t have the quality of a Wilt Chamberlain or a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar but he plays with such energy that it’s contagious. It gives you wings. »

In 1959, the Lakers were swept by the Celtics in the Finals. Bob Cousy remembers the nightmare John Kundla’s people experienced. “This is the permanent show around Bill passing, rebounding and scoring as he wants. Everything seems easy for us. »

A record 51 rebounds!

A few years ago, in the Final against the same Lakers, Russell grabbed 38 rebounds in Game 3… Invincible. Performances of this ilk, he will sign every year at this level. The opposition doesn’t matter. Wilt Chamberlain, who dominated Bill Russell by ten centimeters and forty kilograms, had to spend his time with Philadelphia (1967). In 1965, Bill earned the nickname “The Good Lord” after a titanic game against the Sixers in the Eastern Conference Finals, with 28 rebounds, 10 blocks, 6 steals and 7 assists. Russell just plays in another dimension.

On May 5, 1969, when he ended a thirteen-year career, his record was crowned with five league MVP titles and eleven championship rings, not to mention an Olympic Games gold medal from in 1956 to Melbourne, while still. an academic.

All Celtics fans or former Boston players have boundless admiration for this unparalleled talent. Kevin Garnett had several interviews with him when he arrived in Boston. Everything was filmed on ESPN cameras. In November 2007, we saw “KG” asking all kinds of technical questions to the Master. Russell asked the 2004 MVP how he sees the evolution of the NBA, the game, the business. Proof that the wise old man always follows the times. Connected with the League and its successive changes.

Forty years after his career, forty years after his last title, the first “Bill Russell Trophy” was awarded to the MVP of the Finals, in 2009. This is the least the League can do.

Two years later, Russell made history as the first black American coach in American professional sports to receive America’s highest honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, from the hands of Barack Obama. Then, the city of Boston honored him with a statue erected in front of Town Hall Square. A legend, re-entered the Hall Of Fame last September. This time, as a coach, because he also remains, for history, the first black sports coach in the US. In 1966.


MVP titles: 1958, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1965

NBA titles: 11

All-Star Selections : 12

All-Star game MVP : 1963

Sportsman of the year : 1968

Career Statistics : 15.1 points, 22.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists per game

*Blocks and interceptions are only counted since 1973.


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