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Bill Russell

The "Just win, baby" motto is a perfect fit for one of basketball's legendary players - Bill Russell.

Russell's 13-year career with the Boston Celtics resulted in a remarkable 11 NBA championships, including eight consecutive titles from 1959 to 1966.

Averaging 20.7 points and 20.3 rebounds in his three-year varsity career at the University of San Francisco, he led the Dons to a 71-8 overall record in his three varsity seasons, including 55 consecutive wins and back-to-back NCAA championships in 1955 and 1956.

UCLA's legendary coach John Wooden described Russell as "the greatest defensive man I've ever seen."

Delaying his NBA debut until December 1956 so that he could play in the Olympics, Russell helped guide the 1956 U.S. Olympic Basketball Team to an 8-0 record and the gold medal in the Melbourne Olympic Games, which were held in November.

"Growing up, the Olympics were this thing in the clouds and you really couldn't aspire to it. But as I got closer and closer I said, 'I want to do that,’” Russell said during an interview with For The Record. "I could have qualified in two different sports. I was in the top five in the world in high jumping, in track and field. And the guys on the American team, two out of the three, I had beaten regularly.

"But after I made it (Olympics) in basketball, we had been friendly competitors, so I dismissed going out for the track team because the other two guys, we had been friends over two seasons. And I was, as we say, on the boat (to Melbourne). I wasn't going to take two seats. Maybe I wouldn't have won anyway, but I could have made the track team.

"It was just fun to be a part of that and the gold medal is very, very very precious to me. In terms of trophies, it's probably my most prized possession," he said.

Russell was a five-time league MVP (1958, 1961-63, 1965), 12-time NBA All Star and an 11-time All-NBA first or second team selection.

Russell's style of play was best described by Celtics teammate Don Nelson, who told the Boston Herald, "There are two types of superstars. One makes himself look good at the expense of the other guys on the floor. But there's another type who makes the players around him look better than they are, and that's the type Russell was."

Halls of Fame:

  • Inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1974.
  • Inducted into the FIBA Hall of Fame inaugural class in 2007.
  • Inducted into the Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006. Was one of five individuals (John Wooden, Oscar Robertson, Dean Smith and Dr. James Naismith) selected to the inaugural class.
  • Inducted into the University of San Francisco Athletic Hall of Fame in 1975.

Honors:

  • Voted the Greatest Player in the History of the NBA by the Professional Basketball Writers Association of America in 1980.
  • On Feb. 14, 2009, NBA Commissioner David Stern announced that the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award would be renamed the "Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award" in his honor.
  • Presented by President Barack Obama with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.
  • Named to NBA 25th Anniversary Team, NBA 35th Anniversary Team and NBA 50th Anniversary Team.
  • Named one of the top 15 players in NCAA tournament history in the 75 Years of March Madness Celebration.
  • Ranked #18 on ESPN's 50 Greatest Athletes of the 20th Century in 1999.
  • Named by Sports Illustrated its 1968 Sportsman of the Year.
  • Selected The Sporting News Athlete of the Decade (1970).
  • The Boston Celtics officially retired his No. 6 jersey on March 12, 1972.
  • The University of San Francisco retired his No. 6 jersey.
  • Had a bronze statue placed in front of Boston's City Hall in 2013.

USA Basketball Notes:

  • Gold Medal: 1956 Olympics.
  • Wore No. 6 with the 1956 U.S. Olympic Team.
  • Member of the gold medalist 1956 U.S. Olympic Team that finished with a perfect 8-0 record. Played in all eight of the team's games, averaged a team-leading 14.1 ppg. and shot 47.9% from the field and 77.8% from the foul line.

NBA Notes:

  • Because the 1956 Melbourne Olympics were held Nov. 22-Dec. 1, 1956, he postponed joining the Boston Celtics until after completion of the Olympics. His first NBA game came on Dec. 22, 1956, and he played in 48 games for the Celtics in 1956-57, averaging 14.7 points per game and a league-high 19.6 rebounds per game.
  • Played in 963 regular season games, compiled 40,726 minutes (42.3 mpg.), 14,522 points (15.1 ppg.), 21,620 rebounds (22.5 rpg.) and 4,100 assists (4.3 apg.). Shot 44.0% (5,687-12,930 FGs) from the field and 56.1% (3,148-5,614 FTs) from the foul line.
  • Won 11 NBA championships (1957, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1968 and 1969), the most by any NBA player.
  • Ranks second all-time in the NBA in career rebounds (21,620), second in rebounds averaged (22.5), second in minutes per game (43.2), 30th in minutes played (40,726), 31st in triple-doubles (17) and 58th in free throws attempted (5,614).
  • Played 165 career NBA playoff games, averaged 45.4 minutes, 16.2 points, 24.9 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. Shot 43.0% from the field and 60.3% from the foul line.
  • Led the NBA in total rebounds in four seasons (1958, 1959, 1964 and 1965) and in rebounds averaged in five seasons (1957, 1958, 1959, 1964 and 1965).
  • Recorded 51 boards against the Syracuse Nationals on Feb. 5, 1960, which ranks as the second-best single-game rebounding effort in NBA history. Also recorded 49 boards in two other games and posted a dozen consecutive seasons of 1,000 or more rebounds.
  • Set an NBA Finals record with 40 rebounds in Game 2 versus the. St. Louis Hawks (3/29/60) in the 1960 Finals.
  • Became in 1957-58 the first player in NBA history to average more than 20 rebounds per game for an entire season, something he went on to accomplish 10 times in his 13 seasons.
  • Became in 1957-58 the first player in NBA history to average more than 20 rebounds per game for an entire season, something he went on to accomplish 10 times in his 13 seasons.
  • Selected NBA MVP five times (1958, 1961, 1962, 1963 and 1965).
  • Selected All-NBA first team three times (1959, 1963 and 1965) and All-NBA second team eight times (1958, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1966, 1967 and 1968).
  • Named NBA All-Defensive first team once (1969), the first season the NBA All-Defensive Teams were selected.
  • Selected as an NBA All-Star 12 times (1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1969).
  • Named NBA All-Star Game MVP once (1963) after recording 19 points (8-14 FGs, 3-4 FTs), 24 rebounds and five assists in 37 minutes.
  • Played in 12 All-Star Games, started 11 games, compiled 343 minutes (28.6 mpg.), 120 points (10.0 ppg.), 139 rebounds (11.6 rpg.) and 39 assists (3.3 apg.). Shot 45.9% from the field and 52.9% from the foul line. Ranks fourth all-time for most rebounds.
  • Named as Celtics player-coach in 1966-67, becoming the first African-American coach in the NBA. Served as player-coach for three seasons (1966-67 – 1968-69) and led Celtics to a 162-83 record (.661 winning percentage), two NBA championships and a 28-18 record in the NBA Playoffs.
  • In 1973, was named head coach and general manager of the Seattle SuperSonics. In four seasons (1973-74 – 1976-77) he led Seattle to a 162-166 record (.494 winning percentage) and two NBA Playoff appearances.
  • Head coach of the Sacramento Kings in 1987-88 as the team compiled a 17-41 record.

Collegiate Notes:

  • Played three varsity collegiate seasons (1953-54 - 1955-56) at the University of San Francisco.
  • Led San Francisco to an 71-8 overall record in his three varsity seasons, including 55 consecutive wins and NCAA championships in 1955 and 1956.
  • Also starred on USF's freshman basketball team (1952-53), led team to a 19-4 record, scored 461 points (20.0 ppg.) in 23 games.
  • In three seasons, played in 79 games, compiled 1,636 points (20.7 ppg.) and 1,606 rebounds (20.3 rpg.). Shot 51.6% (625-1,212 FGs) from the field and 55.0% (386-702 FTs) from the foul line.
  • One of just five NCAA Division I men's basketball players to average 20 points and 20 rebounds per game in his NCAA career.
  • Ranks as USF all-time career rebounding leader (1,606), first in scoring average (20.7 ppg.), first in rebounds averaged (20.3 rpg.), first in free throws attempted (702), sixth in points scored (1,636), seventh in free throws made (386), eighth in made field goals (625), 11th in field goals attempted (1,212) and 14th in field goal percentage (.516).
  • Holds USF records for most rebounds in a game (35 vs. Loyola Marymount on 3/4/55), most free throws attempted in a game (19 at Cal State-Chico on 12/4/54 and 19 vs. Loyola-Los Angeles on 2/4/54), most free throws attempted in a season (278 in 1954-55), most rebounds in a season (609 in 1955-56), highest rebound average in a season (21.0 rpg. in 1955-56), most points in a career (2,116), highest scoring average in a career (20.7 ppg.), most free throws attempted in a career (702), most rebounds in a career (1,606) and highest rebound average in a career (20.3).
  • Recorded in the 1956 NCAA Championship game versus Iowa 26 points and 27 rebounds.
  • Recorded in the 1955 NCAA Championship game versus LaSalle 23 points and 25 rebounds.
  • Named 1955 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player (1955) and All-Tournament in 1955 and 1956.
  • Named one of the top 15 players in NCAA tournament history in the 75 Years of March Madness Celebration.
  • Reportedly had 13 blocked shots in his varsity debut and USF’s season-opening 51-33 win over Cal in 1953-54.
  • Selected 1955 and 1956 consensus All-American, three-time All-CBAC/WCAC All-Star, 1956 UPI College Player of the Year, 1955 and 1956 Helms Player of the Year (1955, 1956) and 1956 WCC Player of the Year.
  • Drafted following his junior year by the St. Louis Hawks with the second pick of the 1956 NBA Draft. Traded by the St. Louis Hawks on April 30, 1956, to the Boston Celtics for Cliff Hagan and Ed Macauley.
  • Also represented USF in track and field in the 440-yard race and high jump. Ranked by Track & Field News as the seventh-best high-jumper in the world in 1956. Won high jump titles in 1956 at the Central California AAU meet, the Pacific AAU meet and the West Coast Relays. One of his highest jumps occurred at the West Coast Relays, where he cleared 6-feet-9 1/4 inches.

Personal Notes:

  • Born in Monroe, Louisiana.
  • Full name is William Felton Russell.
  • Son of Katie and Charles Russell.
  • Won back-to-back high school state basketball championships while attending McClymonds High School (Oakland, California).

USA Basketball Statistics

TEAM FGM-A PCT FTM-A PCT REB/AVG PTS/AVG AST BLK STL
1956 OLY 46- 96 .479 21- 27 .778 n/a
113/ 14.1 n/a
n/a
n/a

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