Bill Russell Unisex T-Shirt
Finally, a way to show your respect for some of the greatest icons, legends and pioneers that paved the way past and present. Rock this gear in style and bring back the moments that made you, memories they gave you and/or lessons they taught you. Scroll down for a history lesson with some of our favorite clips.
Welcome to the Respect Due family Bill Russell! We salute you.
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Bill Russell Documentary The Player, The Coach
William Felton Russell (born February 12, 1934) is an American former professional basketball player who played as a center for the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association (NBA) from 1956 to 1969. A five-time NBA Most Valuable Player and a 12-time All-Star, he was the centerpiece of the Celtics dynasty that won eleven NBA championships during his 13-year career. Russell and Henri Richard of the National Hockey League are tied for the record of the most championships won by an athlete in a North American sports league. Russell led the San Francisco Dons to two consecutive NCAA championships in 1955 and 1956, and he captained the gold-medal winning U.S. national basketball team at the 1956 Summer Olympics.
Although Russell never averaged more than 19.0 points per game in any season, many regard him to be among the greatest basketball players of all time for his dominating defensive play. He is 6 ft 10 in (2.08 m) tall, with a 7 ft 4 in (2.24 m) wingspan. His shot-blocking and man-to-man defense were major reasons for the Celtics’ domination of the NBA during his career. Russell was equally notable for his rebounding abilities. He led the NBA in rebounds four times, had a dozen consecutive seasons of 1,000 or more rebounds, and remains second all-time in both total rebounds and rebounds per game. He is one of just two NBA players (the other being prominent rival Wilt Chamberlain) to have grabbed more than 50 rebounds in a game.
Russell played in the wake of black pioneers Earl Lloyd, Chuck Cooper, and Sweetwater Clifton, and he was the first black player to achieve superstar status in the NBA. He also served a three-season (1966–69) stint as player-coach for the Celtics, becoming the first black coach in North American professional sports and the first to win a championship. In 2011, Barack Obama awarded Russell the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his accomplishments on the court and in the Civil Rights Movement.
He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. He was selected into the NBA 25th Anniversary Team in 1971 and the NBA 35th Anniversary Team in 1980, and named as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996, one of only four players to receive all three honors. In 2007, he was enshrined in the FIBA Hall of Fame. In Russell’s honor, the NBA renamed the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player trophy in 2009: it is now the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award. On May 16, 2021, it was announced that Bill Russell has been selected into the Basketball Hall of Fame for his Coaching Career.
Bill Russell Career Highlights – 11 RINGS!
Russell is one of the most successful and decorated athletes in North American sports history. His awards and achievements include 11 NBA championships as a player with the Boston Celtics in 13 seasons (including two NBA championships as player/head coach), and he is credited with having raised defensive play in the NBA to a new level. By winning the 1956 NCAA Championship with USF and the 1957 NBA title with the Celtics, Russell became the first of only four players in basketball history to win an NCAA championship and an NBA Championship back-to-back (the others being Henry Bibby, Magic Johnson, and Billy Thompson). He also won two state championships in high school. In the interim, Russell won an Olympic gold medal in 1956. His stint as coach of the Celtics was also of historical significance, as he became the first black head coach in major U.S. professional sports when he succeeded Red Auerbach.
In his first NBA full season (1957–58), Russell became the first player in NBA history to average more than 20 rebounds per game for an entire season, a feat he accomplished 10 times in his 13 seasons. Russell’s 51 rebounds in a single game is the second-highest performance ever, trailing only Chamberlain’s all-time record of 55. He still holds the NBA record for rebounds in one half with 32 (vs. Philadelphia, on November 16, 1957). Career-wise in rebounds, Russell ranks second to Wilt Chamberlain in regular season total (21,620) and average per game (22.5), and he led the NBA in average rebounds per game four times. Russell is the all-time playoff leader in total (4,104) and average (24.9) rebounds per game, he grabbed 40 rebounds in three separate playoff games (twice in the NBA Finals), and he never failed to average at least 20 rebounds per game in any of his 13 post-season campaigns. Russell also had seven regular-season games with 40 or more rebounds, the NBA Finals record for highest rebound per game average (29.5 rpg, 1959) and by a rookie (22.9 rpg, 1957). In addition, Russell holds the NBA Finals single-game record for most rebounds (40, March 29, 1960, vs. St. Louis, and April 18, 1962, vs. Los Angeles), most rebounds in a quarter (19, April 18, 1962, vs. Los Angeles), and most consecutive games with 20 or more rebounds (15 from April 9, 1960 – April 16, 1963). He also had 51 in one game, 49 in two others, and 12 straight seasons of 1,000 or more rebounds. Russell was known as one of the most clutch players in the NBA. He played in 11 deciding games (10 times in Game 7s, once in a Game 5), and ended with a flawless 11–0 record. In these 11 games, Russell averaged 18 points and 29.45 rebounds.
Russell was considered the consummate defensive center, noted for his defensive intensity, basketball IQ, and will to win. He excelled at playing man-to-man defense, blocking shots and grabbing defensive rebounds. Opponent Wilt Chamberlain said Russell’s timing as a shot-blocker was unparalleled. Bill Bradley—Russell’s erstwhile Knicks opponent—wrote in 2009 that Russell “was the smartest player ever to play the game [of basketball]”. He also could score with putbacks and made mid-air outlet passes to point guard Bob Cousy for easy fast-break points. He also was known as a fine passer and pick-setter, featured a decent left-handed hook shot and finished strong on alley oops. However, on offense, Russell’s output was limited. His NBA career personal averages show him to be an average scorer (15.1 points career average), a poor free throw shooter (56.1%), and average overall shooter from the field (44%, not exceptional for a center). In his 13 years, he averaged a relatively low 13.4 field goals attempted (normally, top scorers average 20 and more), illustrating that he was never the focal point of the Celtics offense, instead focusing on his tremendous defense.
In his career, Russell won five regular-season MVP awards (1959, 1961–63, 1965)—tied with Michael Jordan for second all-time behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar‘s six awards. He was selected three times to the All-NBA First Teams (1959, 1963, 1965) and eight Second Teams (1958, 1960–62, 1964, 1966–68), and was a 12-time NBA All-Star (1958–1969). Russell was elected to one NBA All-Defensive First Team. This took place during his last season (1969), and was the first season the NBA All-Defensive Teams were selected. In 1970, The Sporting News named Russell the “Athlete of the Decade”. Russell is universally seen as one of the best NBA players ever, and was declared “Greatest Player in the History of the NBA” by the Professional Basketball Writers Association of America in 1980. For his achievements, Russell was named “Sportsman of the Year” by Sports Illustrated in 1968. He also made all three NBA Anniversary Teams: the NBA 25th Anniversary All-Time Team (1970), the NBA 35th Anniversary All-Time Team (1980) and the NBA 50th Anniversary All-Time Team (1996). Russell ranked No. 18 on ESPN‘s 50 Greatest Athletes of the 20th Century in 1999. In 2009, SLAM Magazine named Russell the No. 3 player of all time behind Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain. Former NBA player and head coach, Don Nelson, described Russell as follows: “There are two types of superstars. One makes himself look good at the expense of the other guys on the floor. But there’s another type who makes the players around him look better than they are, and that’s the type Russell was.”
On February 14, 2009, during the 2009 NBA All-Star Weekend in Phoenix, NBA Commissioner David Stern announced that the NBA Finals MVP Award would be named after Bill Russell. Russell was named as a 2010 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. On June 15, 2017, Russell was announced as the inaugural recipient of the NBA Lifetime Achievement Award.
In 2000, his longtime teammate Tommy Heinsohn described both Russell’s stature and his uneasy relationship with Boston more earthily: “Look, all I know is the guy…came to Boston and won 11 championships in 13 years, and they named a bleeping tunnel after Ted Williams.”
Boston honored Russell by erecting a statue of him on City Hall Plaza in 2013: he is depicted in-game, surrounded by 11 plinths representing the 11 championships he helped the Celtics win. Each plinth features a key word and related quote to illustrate Russell’s multiple accomplishments. The Bill Russell Legacy Foundation, established by the Boston Celtics Shamrock Foundation, funded the project. The art is by Ann Hirsch of Somerville, Massachusetts, in collaboration with Pressley Associates Landscape Architects of Boston. The statue was unveiled on November 1, 2013, with Russell in attendance. Two years later, during the spring of 2015, two statues of children were added, honoring Bill Russell’s commitment to working with children. These statues were modeled by a local boy from Somerville and multiple girls from the surrounding area.
West Coast Conference’s Russell Rule
On August 2, 2020, the West Coast Conference (WCC), which has been home to Russell’s alma mater of USF since the league’s formation in 1952, became the first NCAA Division I conference to adopt a conference-wide diversity hiring commitment, announcing the Russell Rule, named after Russell and based on the NFL’s Rooney Rule. In its announcement, the WCC stated:
The “Russell Rule” requires each member institution to include a member of a traditionally underrepresented community in the pool of final candidates for every athletic director, senior administrator, head coach and full-time assistant coach position in the athletic department.
Bill Russell Highlights 1962 Finals G7 vs Lakers – 30 Pts, 40 Rebs
Bill Russell ON Wilt Chamberlain and their RIVALRY
Making the Case – Bill Russell
How Good Was Bill Russell Actually?
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