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Bill Russell: Between the field and the social. The story of the most successful ever

Bill Russell

There are the great players, there are the champions, there are the champions. And then there is Bill Russell. One who was a champion for sure, but reducing him to the parquet area would be doing him a disservice for everything he did in his life. A life spent in basket, but not for basketball. But, for the people. Yours, folks. The one who had the skin of the same color, the one that had to go through decades of injusticeswithout necessarily having gone all the way, because the battaglia keep on.

On the run from Louisiana

Bill Russell was a giant, on but especially off the pitch. Immense player, but man even more superfine for all his social struggles, his own battaglia against injustices he felt on his own skin. On that smooth and soft skin that he had as a child, but which he immediately experienced the ugly sore of a stinging racism and mortifying. He soon left his home, Monroe, Louisiana, where he was born in 1934, fled with his family to California, a more tolerant environment, at least for the customs of the time. Not to think about it (but was it really like that?) He played at basketball, what will become the sport of his life, a discipline that Bill Russell lived before and after. But let’s go in order.

What an Olympics

Bill spent his formative years in Oakland, and when he got to university it was taken for granted for him to take part in the collegiate tournament. He left his mark immediately: two NCAAs won, one in 1955 and one the following year, which coincided with the year of Olympics in Melbourne. He would have had everything to land immediately in the NBA, but the young Russell declined the invitation: he wanted to play the Olympics. Professionals were not accepted at the time, which is why he delayed his arrival in the NBA world by one year. Bill had made his calculations well: and thus, he became captain of one of the most dominant teams ever seen at work at the Olympic Games. The USA in Melbourne 1956, more than a team, were a steamroller: needless to say, there was none for anyone. They slapped anyone in the two groups with an average of points close to 100, in the semifinals they disintegrated theUruguay (101-38) and left little hope even for theussr, who in the final had to surrender 89-55. The numbers of that gold medal were from mythology books: 8 victories out of 8, 792 points scored against only 365 suffered. For Bill, the points put in were 113.

The 1956 Draft changes history

It was the 1956 Draft that changed Bill Russell’s life. Arnold Jacob Auerbachfor all Red, coach of the Boston Celtics. Red had a flair and moved perfectly: he sensed that the Rochester Royals, the first to choose, would not have bet on Bill, so he went to the second on the call list, the St. Louis Hakws, and dealt: he would have chosen him, putting him just saying “safe“, To then turn it over to the Celtics, who would give the Hawks Hagan and Macauley in exchange for Russell. It was a deal for everyone: Red, Celtics and Bill. Which, at the beginning, was not wanted in the least, with even heavy accusations from the stands. It was still a very city racistBoston, and it was never true love towards that same city in which, sportingly speaking, he wrote the story:

I played for the Boston Celtics, the club, and for the Boston Celtics, my teammates. I didn’t play for the city or for the fans“.

What an epic

What came next was absolutely consigned to the books of the sporting legend. He was born “At Dynasty“, A rarely contested dominance that saw the Celtics on the roof of America 11 times in 13 seasons. The first ring he arrived immediately on the first shot, in the 1956-57 season, with the victory in race-7, see your fate, right against the Hawks. those themselves Hawks who took their revenge in the following season, ending the series already in game-6 at 4-2. That was the last defeat for the Celtics until 1966, when they opened a real dictatorship: the Boston team slipped eight consecutive titles, an incredible record that not only in the NBA, but even in the entire American sport no one has ever managed to equal. The streak ended in 1967 when, for the first time in 10 years, Celtcis did not reach the final that awarded the title. The glory, however, was not over, because two more rings would arrive at the end of the next two championships, allowing Russell to rise to 11 NBA titles losers: no one has ever won as many as he has. To add that Bill won the last two titles as a player-manager, becoming the first African American to lead a team in the United States championships. It was Auerbach himself who appointed him his successor, and Bill took up the baton with dedication and responsibility at the end of the 1965-66 season; a year of running in was enough to bring home two more rings. As a coach he then lived a second part of his competitive career also with the Seattle Supersonics (1973-77) and with i Sacramento Kings (1987 and 1988), but without winning the title.

What did Bill stand for

We said there was a pre-Bill Russell basketball and a post-Bill Russell basketball. This watershed is due to the revolution that Bill implemented in the game: he revolutionized the role of the pivot, with an overwhelming defensive power that made him dominant thanks to his 208 centimeters. With him, the defensive game took on a new concept, for an unprecedented technical revolution regarding the role. With him, the defensive game was literally transformed. And this was one of the secrets that allowed him to play 12 career finals, to win 11 and to bring home numbers out of every category in terms of rebounds.

The human plan

From a human point of view, William Felton Russell (because that was his real name, traded for the more immediate Bill) he gave his all for the fight against racism. At the forefront of the American Civil Rights Movement, she was an activist of the Black Power and in 2011 Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. When he closed his eyes in the hospital next to his wife, Jeannine, the world of basketball lost a great sportsman, the whole world lost a great man.

in copertina Bill Russell con Red Auerbach (Keystone)

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