The Lord of the Rings (daily newspaper young world)

Bill Russell with coach Red Auerbach in the dressing room after winning the eighth straight NBA championship in 1966

William Felton Russell is dead. His friends called him Bill. Others include Felton X, in reference to his lifelong struggle against racial discrimination and the Nation of Islam’s practice of replacing European slave names with an X. The relatives of the most successful NBA basketball player of all time announced the death of the 88-year-old on their Twitter account on Sunday. “The greatest winner in American sports history passed away peacefully alongside his wife Jeannine.”

Throughout his professional career, Russell played for the Boston Celtics, a legend he shaped long before Larry Bird. Actually drafted as the second pick by the St. Louis Hawks, he was lucky that the Celtics coach, Arnold “Red” Auerbach, had “racial” reservations pretty much passed his ass. Auerbach made a deal with the Hawks and kicked Russell off ad hoc. However, before he could get started with the Celtics, the Summer Olympics in November/December 1956 in Melbourne were on the agenda. Russell should not be admitted at first because he had already signed a professional contract. Eventually he was allowed to take part and led the USA as captain in the final against the Soviet Union to a gold medal win. He later remarked that if he had been refused entry, he could have entered the Olympics as a high jumper. In this discipline, too, he was one of the best in the world at the time.


Of course, it didn’t stop with the Olympic rings. He won the championship as a rookie with the Celtics in his first season. Overall, he would win 11 NBA rings in 13 seasons, eight of them in a row and the last two as player-coach. (Russell was the first black coach in the NBA.) Russell has won more rings than can fit on his fingers. To date, no one has copied him. The 1960s are considered the so-called Celtics dynasty. The Boston team was virtually unbeatable and Russell their sporting poster child. One record chased the next. Six times they were in the finals against the Los Angeles Lakers and they were won six times. Russell was named the league’s most valuable player (MVP) five times and was named an All-Star Game 12 times. In 1975 he was inducted into the Hall of Fame – last year also as a coach.

Bill Russell revolutionized basketball. Before him, defending was considered bourgeois. Meanwhile, the center invented the shot block (like Ernst Happel later invented forechecking in football) and defending as a weapon. The journalists called him crazy because of the way he played, but basketball was to change forever. Due to his playing style, various rules were even changed. The distance between the free-throw line and the basket has been doubled to break the rule of rebounds and give opponents a chance again.

His duels with Wilt Chamberlain are legendary. Unlike Russell, this one was an offensive specialist. The average attendance for the Celtics in 1963 was 7,455 fans, but when Wilt played there, the Boston Garden filled to capacity (14,000). Chamberlain was the more complete player, but Russell was one who also made his teammates shine. He was a team player.

Battle of the Titans

Both players formed a great friendship. Chamberlain often lodged him with him, they even drove together to the matches in which they competed, which the media smugly marketed as the “Battle of the Titans.” The friendship broke after the final game of Russell’s career, the crucial seventh of the 1969 finals series in Los Angeles. Wilt had injured his knee and Bill accused him of “acting” to avoid the last big fight. In his biography, Russell wrote, “Substituting Wilt was like a wrong word at the end of a good book.” They didn’t speak to each other for 20 years.

Russell grew up in Oakland, California but was originally from Louisiana. His grandfather was hunted by the Klu Klux Klan, his father fared little better, and despite all the successes in Boston, Bill was always discriminated against. The windows of his house were repeatedly smashed, his trophies destroyed, and people even shit in his bed. He was called “raccoon”, “gorilla” and “chocolate child”. Russell became involved with the Black Panthers (which originated in Russell’s hometown of Oakland) and said, “I prefer a Sacramento jail to Boston mayor. It’s a racist nest.« In 1967, together with Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Jim Brown, he had supported Muhammad Ali at the legendary Cleveland Summit when Ali refused to go to the Vietnam War for the empire.

At a time when, even in Germany, more and more people are heroizing the military at peace demonstrations, Bill Russell is definitely someone who will be missed.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.