The Legend Of The No.6: Bill Russell And His 11 Rings|
Every now and then a basketball legend emerges on your screens. They change the NBA Finals Odds and even the game as a whole, simply by being better than everyone else - forcing the rest of the league to catch up.
Bill Russel was one of these players. Born in 1934 Russel had to contend with racism from every angle as well as the normal struggle of climbing up the league.
In his story, we explain just why Russell gained his reputation and why his 11 champion wins were so legendary.
An Athletic Childhood
Bill Russell grew up in Monroe, which was a very segregated town. He would often be refused service in gas stations and his mother was once told to go home and change by a police officer for wearing "white people's clothing".
Russell had to deal with aggressive racism every day which made school hard. He was always a good runner, a great jumper, and had big hands for a kid. All these points should have told a school coach to train Russell as a basketball player, but he didn't understand the game. Because no one wanted to put any effort into him, they simply cut him from the squad.
It wasn't until George Powles encouraged him to play, that Russell finally got the attention he needed. Powles was a white man and the first white man to treat Russell with respect and warm words.
Russell soon created an unusual style of defense, which coaches told him to stop doing, but this defensive style helped him win games, so he kept doing it. This was the first time we saw Russell change the game for the better.
Rejected By College Recruiters
Most college recruiters rejected Russell. They said that his fundamentals were atrocious and that the man clearly didn't understand the game. Only one recruiter saw Russell's potential - Hal DeJulio from USF.
He offered Russell a scholarship and in that ticket, the young boy saw a way out of racism and out of poverty. Of course, only one of these things was true.
A Target For Racist Hate
It wasn't long after Russell joined the USF that he became the starting center for the team. Coach Phill Woolpert didn't care about skin color, which was unusual at the time, but it meant that the best players got to play regardless of their heritage.
Because of this, around half of the team was black. This meant that the team was open to a lot of racist hate from fans. Hotels refused to house them, and whole teams refused to play them.
Russell refused to be a victim though and continued to play the game. He was faster than anyone else, played aggressively, and could block any shot. Because of his amazing dominance, the NCAA changed the rules. Because of Russell, basket interference became prohibited.
By the end of his first season, Russell won 28 out of the 29 games played. They won the national championship. He became the MVP and entered the First Team All-American. At this point in history, black people weren't expected to reach these achievements, but Russell did.
Despite all of this, Russell wasn't picked for Player of the Year - guess why.
The NBA Drafts
Fast forward to the 1956 NBA drafts, and the Boston Celtics had their eye on Russell. They were missing a good defensive player and everyone else was sleeping on this new player. Despite coming second in the previous year and therefore picking second to last, no one wanted to pay Russell a decent salary to join their team. This meant that the Celtics had no trouble picking the player they wanted.
The 1956 Olympics
Before his rookie season even began, Russell was the captain of the US men's Olympic team. They reached gold and dominated the tournament.
Russel was known for his "11 Rings" or 11 champion wins, but it all started in his rookie years. He received backlash from every direction as Russel crushed the competition. This was the first time the Celtics had ever won the NBA championship, but it wouldn't be the last.
After the championship, the Celtics continued to win 14 more games in a row, setting a record at the time.
The media were poking holes in the Celtics game plan, but Russel stayed strong.
From 1958 to 1966 the Celtics would win every NBA championship and this was all due to Russell. Whenever their star player was injured or benched, the Celtics would fail. He was undeniably amazing.
His Final Years As Champion
In the 1968 NBA season, Russel became depressed. Due to the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, his dissolved marriage, and the Vietnam War, Russel became dissatisfied with basketball and wanted to do something more meaningful with his life.
Russel claimed his final and 11th Championship and left the game without another word.
Russel always claimed that he owed the public nothing, and judging from his history, he was right. Many people didn't appreciate him until they couldn't ignore his talent any longer. Once he changed the game of basketball forever, he moved on to other careers.