William Felton "Bill" Russell 1934 -
William Felton “Bill” Russell is arguably the greatest basketball player to ever live. Russell played his entire career in the NBA for the Boston Celtics. He only played 13 seasons, and managed to win 11 Championships in those 13 years. He was the consummate champion. In fact, the NBA so viewed Russell as the embodiment of a champion that they named the NBA Finals MVP trophy after him.
Russell made history in 1966, becoming the first black NBA head coach. In three seasons as the Celtics head coach, Russell led the team to 116 wins, 83 losses and two NBA championships.
A whole new statistical category was created to accommodate Russell’s defensive prowess. He was the most dominant defensive player to ever lace up a pair of sneakers. Before Russell, the NBA never recorded blocked shots. Why? It was never done; he genuinely revolutionized the way defense was played.
Despite his success and class, Bostonians racism did not spare Russell. He endured and fought against the oppression wherever possible, even speaking out against it in public. When he was denied service because he was black, Russell denied the city his services and refused to play. Russell was the standard bearer for black athletes refusing to accept undue scrutiny and attacks on their character.
If not for Russell clearing a path in the 60s, black athletes of today would not have the platform to voice their disapproval of racial inequities. Luckily Russell understood his value to the NBA. He demanded equal treatment. Though it was not realized as he walked the streets of Boston, Russell was pivotal in the modernizing of race relations in the NBA.
Bill Russell is the champions’ champion who represented himself and the Boston Celtics honorably.