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Bill Russell Biography

Growing Up, College Champion, Chronology, Awards And Accomplishments, Celtics Star, Civil Rights Advocate


American basketball player

Bill Russell, the Boston Celtics' Hall of Fame center who almost single-handedly redefined the game of basketball, was, in the words of Basketball's Big Men by David Klein, "the standard against whom all others will be judged." A big man who specialized in defense rather than scoring, Russell was the ultimate winner. After winning two National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) titles at the University of San Francisco, and an Olympic gold medal in 1956, he led the Boston Celtics to eleven league championships in thirteen years, a string that is virtually unparalleled in professional sport, including eight consecutive National Basketball Association (NBA) titles between 1959 and 1966, and two in 1968 and 1969 while himself the Celtics coach. On an individual level—a level Russell largely disdained in favor of team performance—he was named the NBA's Most Valuable Player five times. The first African American to coach in the NBA—indeed he was the first to coach a major sport at the professional level in the United States—Bill Russell was also an impassioned and intelligent advocate of civil rights both on and off the basketball court for blacks and America's other minorities.

Sketch by Gerald E. Brennan

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Famous Sports StarsBasketball