Throwback Thursday - Bill Russell
William Felton Russell, born February 12, 1934, was and is regarded as one of NBA’s most outstanding defensive centres of all time. Growing up in Louisiana, he was faced with extreme bouts of racism, and at the age of 8 his father moved the family to a more accepting environment in California.
He was drafted by the St. Louis Hawks in 1956 as pick #2, but it was the Boston Celtics who had their eye on him from the beginning. Boston traded their premier player Cliff Hagan but gained much more in return. The Russell draft-day trade was later called one of the most important trades in the history of North American sports when Boston claimed Russell, guard K.C. Jones and Heinsohn – who are all now NBA Hall of Fame players.
In 1956, Russell, who was a talented track athlete, had a choice to enter the high jump event at the Melbourne Olympics, however he stuck with the USA basketball team who went on to win gold. Overall Bill Russell’s rivalry with Chamberlain would have to be one of the most memorable match-ups of that era. The crowd was always electric, with commentators claiming it as “The Big Collision” and “Battle of the Titans.”
Wearing the infamous no. 6 he clocked up 11x NBA championships, 5 MVPs, 12 All-Stars and was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996.
Bill’s post-player career saw him coaching the Seattle SuperSonics and Sacramento Kings, but this didn’t last long. He retired from the sport entirely, became a vegetarian and played a lot of golf! These days he is still recognized within the sport as the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award has been renamed the “Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP Award.”