Bill Russell Biography
Bill Russell’s real name William Felton Russell was an American retired professional basketball player who played center for the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association (NBA) from 1956 to 1969. A five-time NBA Most Valuable Player and a twelve-time All-Star, he was the centerpiece of the Celtics dynasty that won eleven NBA championships during his thirteen-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 University of San Francisco 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.
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 a 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.
Russell is one of seven players in history to win an NCAA Championship, an NBA Championship, and an Olympic gold medal. 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.
Bill Russell Age
Russel was born on February 12, 1934. and died on July 31st, 2022.
Bill Russell Family
Bill Russell was born to Charles Russell and Katie Russell in West Monroe, Louisiana. Like almost all Southern towns and cities of that time, West Monroe was very segregated, and the Russells often struggled with racism in their daily lives. Russell’s father was once refused service at a gas station until the staff had taken care of all the white customers first.
When his father attempted to leave and find a different station, the attendant stuck a shotgun in his face and threatened to kill him if he didn’t stay and wait his turn. In another incident, Russell’s mother was walking outside in a fancy dress when a white policeman accosted her. He told her to go home and remove the dress, which he described as “white woman’s clothing”.
During World War II, large numbers of blacks were moving to the West to look for work there. When Russell was eight years old, his father moved the family out of Louisiana and settled in Oakland, California. While there, the family fell into poverty, and Russell spent his childhood living in a series of public housing projects.
Charles Russell was described as a “stern, hard man” who initially worked in a paper factory as a janitor, which was a typical “Negro Job”—low paid and not intellectually challenging, as sports journalist John Taylor commented.
When World War II broke out, the elder Russell became a truck driver. Russell was closer to his mother Katie than to his father, and he received a major emotional blow when she suddenly died when he was 12 years old.
His father gave up his trucking job and became a steelworker to be closer to his semi-orphaned children.
Russell has stated that his father became his childhood hero, later followed up by Minneapolis Lakers superstar George Mikan, whom he met when he was in high school.
Mikan, in turn, would say of Russell the college basketball player, “Let’s face it, he’s the best ever. He’s so good, he scares you.”
Bill Russell Spouse
Russell was married to his college sweetheart Rose Swisher from 1956 to 1973. They had three children, namely daughter Karen Russell, the television pundit and lawyer, and sons William Jr. and Jacob. However, the couple grew emotionally distant and divorced.
In 1977, he married Dorothy Anstett, Miss USA of 1968, but they divorced in 1980. The relationship was shrouded in controversy because Anstett was white. At the time of his death, he was married to Jeannine Russell.
Bill Russell Education/College
Due to his race, Russell was ignored by college recruiters and did not receive a single letter of intent until recruiter Hal DeJulio from the University of San Francisco (USF) watched him play in a high school game. DeJulio was not impressed by Russell’s meager scoring and “atrocious fundamentals”, but sensed that the young center had an extraordinary instinct for the game, especially in the clutch.
When DeJulio offered Russell a scholarship, he eagerly accepted. Sports journalist John Taylor described it as a watershed event in Russell’s life because Russell realized that basketball was his one chance to escape poverty and racism. As a consequence, Russell swore to make the best of it.
At USF, Russell became the new starting center for coach Phil Woolpert. Woolpert emphasized defense and deliberate half-court play, which were concepts that favored Russell’s exceptional defensive skills. Woolpert’s choices of how to deploy his players were unaffected by issues of skin color.
In 1954, he became the first coach of a major college basketball squad to start three black players: Russell, K. C. Jones, and Hal Perry. In his USF years, Russell used his relative lack of bulk to develop a unique style of defense: instead of purely guarding the opposing center, he used his quickness and speed to play help defense against opposing forwards and aggressively challenge their shots.
Combining the stature and shot-blocking skills of a center with the foot speed of a guard, Russell became the centerpiece of a USF team that soon became a force in college basketball. After USF kept Holy Cross star Tom Heinsohn scoreless in an entire half, Sports Illustrated wrote, “If Russell ever learns to hit the basket, they’re going to have to rewrite the rules.”
The NCAA did in fact rewrite rules in response to Russell’s dominant play; the lane was widened for his junior year. After he graduated, the NCAA rules committee instituted a second new rule to counter the play of big men like Russell; basket interference was now prohibited. The NCAA pays close attention to college basketball superstars.
Over the years, several rule changes have gone into effect to counter the dominant play of big men. Two good examples are goal-tending in response to George Mikan (1945) and the prohibition of the dunk shot by Lew Alcindor (1967), although that rule was eventually repealed.
However, the games were often difficult for the USF squad. Russell and his black teammates became targets of racist jeers, particularly on the road. In one notable incident, hotels in Oklahoma City refused to admit Russell and his black teammates while they were in town for the 1954 All-College Tournament.
In protest, the whole team decided to camp out in a closed college dorm, which was later called an important bonding experience for the group. Decades later, Russell explained that his experiences hardened him against abuse of all kinds. “I never permitted myself to be a victim”, he said.
Racism also shaped his lifelong paradigm as a team player. “At that time”, he has said, “it was never acceptable that a black player was the best. That did not happen. In my junior year in college, I had what I thought was one of the best college seasons ever. We won 28 out of 29 games. We won the National Championship.
I was the [Most Valuable Player] at the Final Four. I was the first team All American. I averaged over 20 points and over 20 rebounds, and I was the only guy in college blocking shots. So after the season was over, they had a Northern California banquet, and they picked another center as Player of the Year in Northern California. Well, that let me know that if I were to accept these as the final judges of my career I would die a bitter old man.”
So he made a conscious decision, he said, to put the team first and foremost, and not worry about individual achievements.
On the hardwood, his experiences were far more pleasant. Russell led USF to NCAA championships in 1955 and 1956, including a string of 55 consecutive victories. He became known for his strong defense and shot-blocking skills, once denying 13 shots in a game. UCLA coach John Wooden called Russell “the greatest defensive man I’ve ever seen”. During his college career, Russell averaged 20.7 points per game and 20.3 rebounds per game.
Bill Russell Death
Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell died on Sunday, July 31, 2022, at 88 years old. He was a trailblazer in the game of ball and is the most enriched player in the NBA.
An 11-time champion, he drove the Boston Celtics’ period of predominance during the 1950s and ’60s. According to his confirmed authority Twitter account, he kicked the bucket calmly with his significant other Jeannine Russell close by.
Bill Russell Career
Due to Russell’s Olympic commitment, he could not join the Celtics for the 1956–57 season until December. After rejoining the Celtics, Russell played 48 games, averaging 14.7 points per game and a league-high 19.6 rebounds per game. During this season, the Celtics featured five future Hall-of-Famers: center Russell forwards Heinsohn and Frank Ramsey and guards Bill Sharman and Bob Cousy.
Russell’s first Celtics game came on December 22, 1956, against the St. Louis Hawks, led by star forward Bob Pettit, who held several all-time scoring records. Auerbach assigned Russell to shut down the Hawks’ main scorer, and the rookie impressed the Boston crowd with his man-to-man defense and shot-blocking.
In previous years, the Celtics had been a high-scoring team but lacked the defensive presence needed to close out tight games. However, with the added defensive presence of Russell, the Celtics had laid the foundation for a dynasty. The team utilized a strong defensive approach to the game, forcing opposing teams to commit many turnovers, which led to many easy points on fast breaks.
Russell was an elite help defender who allowed the Celtics to play the so-called “Hey, Bill” defense: whenever a Celtic requested additional defensive help, he would shout “Hey, Bill!” Russell was so quick that he could run over for a quick double team and make it back in time if the opponents tried to find the open man.
He also became famous for his shot-blocking skills: pundits called his blocks “Wilsonburgers”, referring to the Wilson NBA basketballs he “shoved back into the faces of opposing shooters”. This skill also allowed the other Celtics to play their men aggressively: if they were beaten, they knew that Russell was guarding the basket.
This approach allowed the Celtics to finish with a 44–28 regular-season record, the team’s second-best record since beginning play in the 1946–47 season, and guaranteed a post-season appearance.
Russell’s No. 6 jersey was retired by the Celtics on March 12, 1972, Besides the Celtics, Russell also wore number 6 at the University of San Francisco and for the 1956 USA Olympic Team.
He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975. Russell, who had a difficult relationship with the media, did not attend either event. After retiring as a player, Russell had stints as head coach of the Seattle SuperSonics (1973 to 1977) and Sacramento Kings (1987 to 1988).
time as a non-player coach was lackluster; although he led the struggling SuperSonics into the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, Russell’s defensive, team-oriented Celtics mindset did not mesh well with the team, and he left in 1977 with a 162–166 record. Russell’s stint with the Kings was considerably shorter, his last assignment ending when the Kings went 17–41 to begin the 1987–88 season.
In addition, Russell ran into financial trouble. He had invested $250,000 in a rubber plantation in Liberia, where he had wanted to spend his retirement, but it went bankrupt.
The same fate awaited his Boston restaurant called “Slade’s”, after which he had to default on a $90,000 government loan to purchase the outlet. The IRS discovered that Russell owed $34,430 in tax money and put a lien on his house.
After spending about a decade living as a recluse on Mercer Island near Seattle, Russell rose to prominence again at the turn of the millennium.
Russell’s Rules was published in 2001, and in January 2006, he convinced Miami Heat superstar center Shaquille O’Neal to bury the hatchet with fellow NBA superstar and former Los Angeles Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant, with whom O’Neal had a bitter public feud.
Later that year, on November 17, 2006, the two-time NCAA winner Russell was recognized for his impact on college basketball as a member of the founding class of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.
He was one of five, along with John Wooden, Oscar Robertson, Dean Smith, and Dr. James Naismith, selected to represent the inaugural class.
On May 20, 2007, Russell was awarded an honorary doctorate by Suffolk University, where he served as its commencement speaker, and Russell received an honorary degree from Harvard University on June 7, 2007. On June 18, 2007, Russell was inducted as a member of the founding class of the FIBA Hall of Fame. Russell was also honored during the 2009 NBA All-Star Weekend in Phoenix.
On February 14, 2009, NBA Commissioner David Stern announced that the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award would be renamed the “Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award” in honor of the 11-time NBA champion. The following day, during halftime of the All-Star game, Celtics captains Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen presented Russell a surprise birthday cake for his 75th birthday.
Russell attended the final game of the Finals that year to present his newly christened namesake award to its winner, Kobe Bryant. Russell was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.
Bill Russell Rings
Boston Celtics center Bill Russell holds the record for the most NBA championships won with 11 titles during his 13-year playing career. He won his first championship with the Boston Celtics in his rookie year.
Bill Russell Net Worth
Bill Russell is a former American basketball player who has a net worth of $10 million. Russell accumulated his net worth as one of the greatest Boston Celtics players in NBA history.