In the late July of 2022, a basketball legend, Bill Russell passed away. His life was marked by some truly spectacular achievements. A standout college player, Russell was drafted by the NBA team, the Boston Celtics in 1956, and he spent the bulk of his career playing as a center for the team. He was instrumental in the Celtics’ winning of 11 NBA Championships, and he captained the U.S. national basketball team that won the gold medal at the ’56 Olympics. Apart from that he is one of the most decorated players in the history of the game, and considered by many to be the best, or at least one of the best, of all time.
Bill Russell’s Achievements
Basketball is one of the biggest sports in the world, sitting at the number 3 spot as the most popular. Its popularity is exceeded only by soccer (number one) and cricket (number two). The sport’s popularity is also quite large on many of the new sports betting apps that have been popping up in recent years. All this to say, that Bill Russell’s accomplishments within the sport are no joke. The man is an Olympic-gold medalist, an eleven-time NBA champion, and apart from that has seen his fair share of personal achievements.
Out of the 11 aforementioned NBA championships that Mr. Russell won with the Celtics, two were won with him as coach (he was also a player in the games as well, making him a player-coach). During his first NBA season, the athlete became the first player in the game’s history to average 20 rebounds per game for a whole season. In 1968, the New York Times named Mr. Russel “Sportsman of the Year” and in 2011 President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his accomplishments.
So, when the NBA’s decision was announced recently, to retire the number 6 jersey, which he wore, throughout the whole association, not many were shocked. In fact, most fans of Bill Russell, the Boston Celtics, and basketball in general, came out in full support of the decision.
Bill Russell’s Legacy
We talked about the man’s personal achievements. However, we have yet to discuss Bill Russell’s contributions to the game of basketball itself. As another famous player of the past passed away, we believe it is important to discuss what made these giants on whose shoulders we stand on so important to the game. So, in this section, we are going to take a look at the contributions that Russell’s playstyle and coaching had on the game of basketball in general, and how he managed to change quite a few things in regards to the game.
The first thing to take a look at is Russell’s contribution to defensive play in the game of basketball. During his stint as coach-player, he placed special emphasis on defensive play, making it harder for opposing teams to score, all the while allowing his own to rack up the points. This decision led to defensive playing being adopted by quite a few teams. In essence, Bill Russell is responsible for raising the bar on defensive play in the NBA, and it could be argued in basketball in general.
On top of that, he also became the first black man in the history of the sport to coach a team, when he inherited the Boston Celtics from Red Auerbauch, one of history’s greatest NBA coaches, and the man who had drafted Bill to the Celtics in the first place.
For his accomplishments as well as his legacy, Bill Russell was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975 and, in 2007, was enshrined in the FIBA Basketball Hall of Fame. Truly his legacy and accomplishments place him as one of the greatest and most important basketball players of all time.
Image from: Complex