Bill Russell

Bill Russell

Bill Russell is a celebrated African-American retired basketball player. He played center for the National Basketball Association’s the Boston Celtics team. His relentless effort earned him a twelve-time All-Star title and the NBA Most Valuable Player title. Russell’s remarkable victories made him the centerpiece of the Celtics dynasty. During his thirteen year long career he won eleven NBA championships.

On February 12, 1934, William Felton Bill Russell was born in West Monroe, Louisiana to Charles Russell and Katie Russell. Since West Monroe was a strictly segregated area, Russells faced the discrimination and racism issues. The family moved to Lousiana and settled in Oakland, California, when Russell was eight. Poverty forced them to raise young Russell in a series of public housing projects. When he turned 12, he lost his mother and her sudden demise served him a major emotional blow. His father quit his job so as to take care of his emotional son and earned Russell’s utmost respect. In his high school years he began playing basketball but struggled understanding the game despite having required skills. Thus, he was thrown out of the team.

One of the white coaches at his school saw his true potential and encouraged him to polish his raw skills. Receiving kind and encouraging words from a white person was unusual for Russell and the advice delighted him. He took heed of the advice and became a decent player in his junior and senior years and won back to back championships. His height of 6’9 gave him an added advantage to apply an unusual technique of defense. Despite his excellent performance in high school championships, the college recruiters ignored him given his origin. Eventually, Hal DeJulio from the University of San Francisco (USF) sensed Russell’s extraordinary instinct for game and offered him a scholarship. At USF, Coach Phil Woolpert made him the centerpiece of the team and soon he became one of the major players.

In spite of his remarkable performance, Russell and his fellow African-Americans were often made target of racism and discrimination. According to him, the white never found it acceptable that a black could play better than them. However, it was the same African-American who led them to 1955 and 1956 NCAA championships and garnered 55 consecutive victories. Moreover, he was recognized for strong defense, shot-blocking skills and his average was 20.7 points per game during his college years. Aside from basketball, Russell represented USF in track and field events, participating in 400 meter race finishing in 49.6 sec. Besides, he took part in the high jump in 1956 and Track & Field News ranked him the seventh-best high jumper in the world. Russell not only earned a high jumper rank but also garnered jumping titles from the Pacific AAU meet, the West Coast Relays and the Central California AAU meet.

In 1956, Bill Russell was made the captain of the U.S. national basketball team that competed at the 1956 Summer Olympics, Australia. He helped his national team win the gold medal playing against the Soviet Union. The same year he joined the Celtics for the 1956–57 season and played 48 games with average of 14.7 points per game. The Celtics featured five future Hall-of-Famers during the game and which included Bill Russell, Frank Ramsey, Bob Cousy, Bill Sharman and Tom Heinsohn. He is included in the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

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