BOSTON- Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell recently underwent two procedures on his heart. Granted we are living in a unprecedented age of modern medicine and technique, but any time an individual goes under the knife for an operation like a heart procedure there is a serious risk of death. The idea of losing the seventy eight year old legend that is Bill Russell would have been a major tragedy for not just the Boston Celtics, the NBA, Russell’s non Celtic family, but the entire world.
When looking to describe Bill Russell, there is only one word that can accurately encompass his entire illustrious career. The word is WINNER. No one in the history of basketball has had the kind of success that Russell attained. Russell never judged himself on individual awards or accomplishments. Russell was driven to have his team be the last one’s standing after every battle or war waged on the hardwood.
Russell’s early years were a fore shadowing of his future greatness. High School saw his teams win and earn him a college scholarship at the University of San Francisco. Russell would go on to win to lead his squads to two NCAA Championships in only three years. The USA olympic basketball team called in 56 and all Russell did was dominate on the defensive end and lead the team in scoring as team USA scored the gold medal. If Russell had not played a single NBA game, his basketball career could have been described as a winner.
The great news for Celtics fans is the fact that Russell’s NBA career was just as legendary. Russell’s legendary intensity, basketball instincts, defensive presence, and rebounding would transform the Celtics into the first true power house of the NBA. Russell would anchor an amazing eleven championship teams in only thirteen seasons of work. Only adding to this luster is the fact Russell not only was the star player, but was also the head coach of the championship teams that won that year.
Let me put this into perspective for those that are not truly understanding these accomplishments. Michael Jordan has six rings. Magic Johnson has five rings. Larry Bird has three rings. Kobe Bryant has five rings. These men are the some of the cream of the NBA crop and yet, they fall well short of Russell’s excellence of winning. This fact is why the NBA Finals MVP trophy was renamed after Russell.
All the more amazing is the fact Russell accomplished all these fetes while dealing with the dark shadow of racism that engulfed the era in which he played. Black players were subject to abuse at every turn from taunts during the game, segregated hotels, restaurants that did not serve minorities, and even death threats. Russell despite being heckled and treated with bigotry at times always found a way to win with the class and dignity befitting a legend.
The sad fact is Russell will not be around forever. Eventually father time will expire on his life and at seventy eight probably sooner than later. Celtics fans and NBA fans in general should appreciate Russell and his amazing accomplishments. Russell deserves to bask ( not that he ever will) in the standing ovation that the Garden gives him whenever he graces the arena with his presence. Russell deserves the accolades, hand shakes, and well wishes that he receives from admirers when they get a chance to run in to the legend. Russell has earned these small tokens and then some.
The good news is Bill Russell the man will cease to walk this Earth, but the legend of Bill Russell will never ever be forgotten. Russell will forever be in the debate of greatest player of all time on the history of the NBA. Eleven NBA titles as the centerpiece will do that for you. The simple fact is when you are a winner like Russell, you never really die, but continue to live on. Remember Go Green Or Go Home!!!!!!!