A novel by Anthony Burgess
The full names of that greatest winner we call Bill Russell, are William Felton Russell. He was born on February 2, 1934, in Monroe, Louisiana. His family relocated to California when he was eight years old. Although utterly devastated when at the age of twelve, his mother died unexpectedly, he was not deterred from pursuing an amateur interest in basketball.
Having settled in the San Francisco Bay Area, young Bill schooled at McClymonds High, Oakland. Hard work and perseverance were the basic ingredients, which saw him through these difficult High School days. He was just an average player at that period, but quickly blossomed on gaining scholarship into University of San Francisco.
Most college basketball scouts had ignored him. In fact, he received no trials invitation until a fellow from USF paid closer scrutiny at his game. Russell would go on to herald his arrival by milling-out a record winning-streak that spanned 60 consecutive games. In the process, he clinched two NCAA championship titles. An undone Bill Russell perfected his game so well that he earned the honor of being the 3rd overall pick for Saint Louis Hawks. However on April 29, 1956, the draft right was traded to Boston Celtics (in a mutually agreed deal).
Red Auerbach, who was the Celtics head-coach in 1956 was over-the-moon. He had shown interest in Russell's style of play since he was in college. So, it was a little wonder that on signing the Center, he used him as his ultimate defensive pivot. Following preparations for the '56 Olympic games, Russell was unable to join (or even train with) the Celtics until December. But, he lived up to his billing once he got started.
In his very first game on December 22, 1956, the rookie successfully shutout the (hitherto slippery) St. Louis Hawks' star-Forward (Bob Petit). He anchored effectively; and used superb ball distribution to make his team look very good. This practice will go on to become his professional trademark style. Always ensuring to bring out the best of his teammates, Bill led Boston Celtics to win (a then NBA league record of) 52 games.
His career efforts spun Celtics into confiscating a staggering eleven championship titles in thirteen seasons: an unbelievable 84.6% showmanship! The honorable Don Nelson never stop telling whoever cares to listen that Bill is such a team phenomenon that "he (Russell) could easily dominate a game without scoring a single point". Bill Walton, an NBC analyst, (who was also a Hall-of-Famer), said the following: "Russell was the player I tried to be like. He was a team player, and not just an offensive force. He just does whatever it took to win the game."
Meanwhile, some of Bill Russell's career statistics include:
1. 3rd Overall Draft 1956
2. 1956-Olympic Champion (he captained the team)
3. 11-time NBA Champion (1957, '59, '60-'66, and '68-‘69)
4. 12-time NBA All-Star Selection (1958-'69: 12 consecutive seasons)
5. 5-time MVP (1958, '61-'63, and ‘65)
6. All-Star MVP (1963)
7. All-NBA First Team (1959, '63, and ‘65)
8. 2nd All-time Rebound Leader (his 21,620 is second only to Chamberlain's 23,924)
9. Averaged more than 21rpg for 10 consecutive seasons 1958-67
10. His 49 and 51 Rebounds in a game are only second to Chamberlain's 55.
11. NBA Finals Record of 40 Rebounds in a game
12. Led Celtics to .705 regular season winning percentage for 13 seasons.
13. Won 11 Championships in the 13 Seasons he played
After his days as a player, Bill spent few years as coach to both Seattle Super Sonics and Sacramento Kings. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975.
In a bid to honor this great pacesetter, the NBA announced earlier this year, (2009), that the NBA Finals MVP Trophy would be renamed the ‘Bill Russell MVP Award Trophy'.
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