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Rip #6
Rip #6
Published by Swampy Meadows
Rip #6

BEVERLY HILLS (MI) – William Felton Russell died the other day at the age of 88. When asked by strangers if he was a basketball player, Bill would often reply:

“No, that’s what I do, that’s not what I am. I’m not a basketball player, I’m a man who plays basketball.”

In athletics one is ultimately judged by wins and losses. By that yardstick, there can be no argument that Bill Russell is the greatest winner in the history of professional sports:

11 NBA championships as a player
2 NBA championships as player/coach
2 NCAA championships
2 California State high school championships
1 Olympic gold medal
2-time Basketball HOFer (as player and coach)
Presidential Medal of Freedom
1st ever black head coach in American sports
NBA Finals MVP award named after him
College and professional numbers retired

Since most of you probably never had the pleasure of seeing Bill Russell play in person like I did, here is a great highlight video. It was posted by Rex Chapman and features commentary by Bill and others that will give you a sense of how impactful and game-changing he was:


Bear in mind that before Russ, nobody blocked shots. Not only would he deny the shooter, but he would keep the ball in play where he or a teammate could retrieve it and start the Celtics’ patented fast break. He was a world-class high jumper and sprinter and put those tools to use as a relentless defender.

The battles between Wilt Chamberlain and Russ were legendary. My dad always made it a point to get tickets at least once a season at the old Boston Garden when Wilt was in town to watch the two of them duke it out. “The Big Dipper” was the more imposing physical specimen, but Russ usually found a way to win. To put it in a current frame of reference, imagine Obi Toppin trying to cover Joel Embiid.

Wilt may have scored more points, but Bill Russell’s team won more games. Including his college career and the Olympics, Russell’s teams played 22 do-or-die games and they never lost.

The flipside of the Bill Russell story is the adversity he faced as a proud black man in my hometown of Boston in the racially charged 1950s and 1960s. Bill’s daughter Karen described it in an essay she wrote entitled “Growing Up with Privilege and Prejudice”:


This documentary on Russ “My Life, My Way” will give you more insight into the challenges he faced head-on:


As will this doc called “Bill Russell Documentary The Player, The Coach”:


Russ was an active civil rights proponent. He stood by Muhammad Ali with Jim Brown and Kareem Abdul Jabbar when Ali refused military service:

As Charlie Pierce in Esquire put it “He always showed up”:


Bill Russell was an enigma to many people. He famously would not sign autographs or take pictures, preferring instead to shake hands and have a real conversation. Some people took offense at his refusal. At the same time, he possessed a wicked sense of humor and an infectious cackle of a laugh that could light up a room.

Here he tells Magic Johnson what would have happened had the two faced each other on the hardwood:


A little-known fact about Russell is that he would get so worked up that he would, without fail, vomit before every game. Here is how the New England Historical Society described it:


Upon his death, there was a flood of celebrations and remembrances. Here are a few:

The Ringer


Bob Ryan


Sports Illustrated


John Feinstein


Kareem Abdul Jabbar


Some other quotes of note:

– After Chicago won a championship and the two were on a golf course.

Michael Jordan: “You know we’re gonna go after your record.”

Russell: “Which one?”

– When asked who was the best player of his era, Russell replied, "Wilt was the best.... but I was better. (cackle, cackle, cackle)"

– Apparently once during training camp during his last year as player/coach a ball was thrown to Russell along the sideline and Russell fumbled it away. Some hotshot youngster, new to the team, smirked and said under his breath "looks like the old man has a problem with his hands." Russell heard this, turned to the youngster and said "Yeah, I got a problem with my hands. I've got eleven rings, and only ten fingers to put them on."

Teammate Tommy Heinsohn on Russ:

“Look, all I know is, the guy won two NCAA championships, 50-some college games in a row, the [’56] Olympics, then he came to Boston and won 11 championships in 13 years, and they named a f*cking tunnel after Ted Williams.”

–Jon Stewart on Bill:

“Bill Russell was one of the kindest, most thoughtful people I’ve ever met. Once called out of the blue because he thought I looked sad on TV…best peptalk of my life. RIP”

– A story about Bill Russell as told by poster 54thMA on the Sons of Sam Horn message board:

My Dad loved him, he used to do a lot of details at the old garden, his cousin was head of garden security, so my Dad got to know a lot of the Celtics and Bruins in the 60's through the 90's, of all the athletes he met, the two he admired most were Russell and Orr, my Dad said they were both great athletes but even better people, Russell especially, always called my Dad by his first name whenever he saw him, my Dad referred to him as "Mr. Russell", then one day Bill said to him "Chris, it's ok to call me Bill" and my Dad said "I respect you immensely, to me you will always be Mr. Russell" My Dad told me he gave him a look that he'll never forget and replied "Thank you for that Chris. Ok, then, Mr. Russell it is."

I met him once thanks to my Dad, Bill said to me "Your Dad always took good care of me in my playing days, he's a special man, you should be proud to call him Dad."

Godspeed. Mr. Russell.

That’s it “From the Swamp.”
You can email me at: swampy@udpride.com
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By Lifelong Flyer Fan on 08-02-2022, 03:58 PM
Thank you for compiling this list.

Here is a link to access the 1987 article by his daughter. You have to scroll down a bit to begin reading.
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By Swampy Meadows on 08-15-2022, 10:04 AM
In a fitting tribute, the NBA has decided to retire Bill Russell's jersey #6 league-wide:

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By tirebiter on 08-22-2022, 10:52 PM
You missed "Top 25 Most Underrated College Hoopers for 2022-23" # 24 "Toumani Camara - Dayton"

And Mongol Mike is flying under the radar - We are loaded!
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By tirebiter on 08-22-2022, 10:54 PM
Originally Posted by tirebiter View Post
You missed "Top 25 Most Underrated College Hoopers for 2022-23" # 24 "Toumani Camara - Dayton"

And Mongol Mike is flying under the radar - We are loaded!
Meant to reply to your CBK post - RIP #6...
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