Bill Russell (1934-2022), the most successful man in the NBA, dies

Since 2009, the “Bill Russell Trophy” has been awarded to the best player in the NBA Finals. An award the pivotal Boston star of the 1960s has not won since his inception during his last year of activity, in 1969. The fact remains that the NBA could not honor the most beautiful player in history with his eleven NBA rings. ! The white-bearded sage is a five-time best player and Olympic champion, a history book in itself.

The story is delicious. A few years ago, during one of the golf tournaments dedicated to celebrities, Bill Russell was cited by the “People” who asked him what he thought of the back-to-back titles won by the Bulls of Michael Jordan. Bill Russell stared at him before answering: ” Not much… “

Six titles, were not enough to impress the player who won eleven titles in his career with Boston, while crushing the youth of Reed Auerbach the league.

After four years of college in San Francisco, William Felton Russell was drafted to third place by the St. Louis Hawks in 1956. Another era. American basketball descends into an opposition between two divisions. With only eight teams – including Syracuse, Fort Wayne, St. Louis and Rochester – the competition is necessarily low. In most of these cities, basketball is rarely found today, except at the university level.

“But that doesn’t detract from Bell’s success.”John Havlicek Cup, who would win eight titles with Boston between 1963 and 76. He revolutionized the position of the axis as would do again later on by Hakim Aliwan. »

Wilt Chamberlain The Black Beast

In the wake of the draw, the Monroe (Louisiana) native is sent to Boston where Red Auerbach will create an exceptional interior. With Bob Cousy and Bill Russell, Boston holds a magical pair. The second would play twelve finals between 1957 and 1969 and stack the titles with resounding success. His successive partners go down in history: Bill Sharman, Sam Jones, K.C. Jones, Jon Havlicek…

When questioning figures like Jerry West or Paul Seymour, the Syracuse coach, who faced Russell in the 1960s, the comments are almost always rave reviews. “There has never been a bigger, stronger, faster, smarter and more competitive Belle.”

In 1957, during a series of playoffs, Paul Seymour abandoned his pivotal alignment against the Celtics star as Johnny Kerr was ridiculed in the regular season… Jerry West retains a soft spot for Russell, even if he played a funny trick with him in 1969: the Celtics beat him On the title, West still won his first MVP title in the finals bestowed by the league when Russell just won his eleventh ring!

So the Celtics star never got that award. Consolation: Since June 2009, this trophy now bears his name. David Stern made that decision in the All-Star Game in Phoenix. “Who else could give his name to such a prestigious trophy? Bale was one of the greatest NBA players, and one of the greatest heroes in basketball history.

Russell, 75, had tears in his eyes as he said: “I am proud to know that my name will be associated with this trophy for a long time.”

The wise old man spent some time in Arizona listing the NBA Finals. Finalists from another time may have yellowed their photos but led to tons of film and paperbacks predominating before they were archived in the history books. The glorious past rich in the testimony of Bob Cosey, the luxury partner of the first six titles: “Bale was more than just an exceptional player. He didn’t have the basics of Wilt Chamberlain or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar but he played so hard that he was contagious. He gave you wings.”

In 1959, the Lakers swept the Celtics in the Finals. Bob Cosey recalls the nightmare that John Condla’s men had. “The show was always about passing Bale, rebounding and scoring as he wanted. It all seemed so easy to us.”

51 rebounds!

A few years later, Russell is still in the final against the same Lakers, earning 38 rebounds in Game 3…indomitable. A performance of this kind, will sign every year at this level. Regardless of the opposition. Wilt Chamberlain, who dominates Bill Russell by ten centimeters and forty kilograms, will have to spend his time with Philadelphia (1967). In 1965, Bell was named “The Good Lord” after a giant match against the Sixers in the Eastern Conference Finals, with 28 rebounds, 10 blocks, 6 steals and 7 assists. Russell is simply playing into another dimension.

On May 5, 1969, as he ended a thirteen-year career, he capped his record-breaking record of five MVP titles and 11 champion rings, not to mention a gold medal at the Olympic Games from 1956 to Melbourne, while still an academic.

All Celtics fans or former Boston players have boundless admiration for this incomparable talent. Kevin Garnett gave him several interviews upon his arrival in Boston. It was all captured by ESPN cameras. In November 2007 we saw “KG” asking all kinds of technical questions to the teacher. Russell asked the best player of 2004 how he saw the development of the NBA, the game and the work. Evidence that the wise old man has always kept up to date with the times. Linked to the league and its successive transformations.

Forty years after the end of his career, and forty years after his last title, the first “Bill Russell Cup” was awarded to the MVP of the Finals, in 2009. It was the least the league could do.

after two years, Russell made history as the first black American coach in American professional sports to receive America’s highest honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom from the hands of Barack Obama. The city of Boston then honored him by erecting a statue in front of City Hall Square. The legend entered the Hall of Fame again last September. This time, as a coach, because he also remains, for history, the first black coach in American sports. That was in 1966.


Best player titles: 1958, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1965

NBA titles: 11

All star picks : 12

All-Star Game MVP : 1963

athlete of the year : 1968

Career stats 15.1 points, 22.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists per game

* Bans and interceptions have been counted since 1973.

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