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Mon, 02.12.1934

The minister of defense, Basketball’s Bill Russell!

Bill Russell

*Bill Russell was born on this date in 1934. He was an African American professional basketball player and coach.

From Monroe, LA William Felton Russell attended McClymonds High School in Oakland, Calif. After this he finished College at the University of San Francisco and was drafted (third overall) by St. Louis Hawks in 1956 and was traded to Boston Celtics. It was at USF that Russell cultivated his skills under Hall of Fame Coach Phil Woolpert. Russell was a dominant collegian, and teamed with K.C. Jones to make USF one of college basketball's most successful teams. Russell led the Dons to 55 consecutive victories and the 1955 and 1956 NCAA championships.

From both championships Russell earned All-America honors and was named national Player of the Year in 1956. Russell waited on his professional career to play in the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia where he led the U.S. to an 8-0 record and the gold medal. His on court legacy can be defined in three words; Defense wins championships. Before Russell brought his defensive and shot blocking skills to basketball, the game focused primarily on offense. He was arguably the greatest defensive center in the history of basketball. Russell played in 48 of the Boston Celtics' 72 games as a rookie, and his presence in the Celtics' lineup began a dynasty in Boston rivaled in sports only by John Wooden's UCLA Bruins and baseball's New York Yankees.

During his career, Boston won 11 NBA championships, including eight consecutive from 1959 to 1966. Russell's head-to-head battles with Wilt Chamberlain in the 1950s and 1960s are legendary. In their first highly anticipated showdown on Nov. 7, 1959, Russell grabbed an amazing 35 rebounds and Boston won 115-106. Russell's honors include: five-time league MVP (1958, 1961-63, 1965), 12-time All-Star Game participant (MVP in 1963), Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year in 1968 and The Sporting News Athlete of the Decade in 1970. Russell, who once had 51 rebounds in a game against Syracuse in 1960, led the NBA in rebounding five times and grabbed 21,620 rebounds (second all-time), averaged 15.1 ppg and 22.5 rpg for his career.

At the beginning of the 1967 season, the Celtics named Russell to succeed Red Auerbach as head coach, making him the first Black NBA head coach. Russell served as player/coach from 1967 to 1969, and led Boston to the 1968 and 1969 NBA titles. Russell was named to the All-NBA 25th and 35th Anniversary Teams in 1970 and 1980 and the All-NBA 50th Team in 1996.

Reference:
Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
1000 West Columbus Avenue
Springfield, MA 01105
Phone: (413) 781-6500 or (877) 4HOOPLA
Fax: (413) 781-1939

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