Bill Russell Biography

William Felton Russell was born on February 12, 1934, in Monroe, Louisiana, but would grow up in Oakland, California, where as he grew older, his height increased disproportionally. He failed to make his junior high basketball team, and barely made the high school team. He had an undistinguished high school career but a coach from the University of San Francisco saw something in him that was scholarship material. USF was a basketball unknown at the time, but Russell and teammate KC Jones (also a Celtic teammate in later years) turned them into a powerhouse, posting 55 consecutve wins at one point, from 1954-56, making USF the NCAA Champion and the nation's top-rated college team. Russell was also the number one college player. He turned down an offer to go pro upon graduation, opting to play with the US team in the 1956 Olympics, instead. The US team won the Gold. Then, Russell was grabbed by Red Auerbach's Celtics. With Cousy's speededup playmaking, they needed a tall man who could get them the ball. Russell was that man. Russell's contract was a new high salary for a rookie at the time: $24,000. Auerbach knew what he had, Russell knew what to do, and the rest is history. Bill Russell added the necessary extra ingredient to the game of basketball, after Bob Cousy had added his leaven of spectacular playmaking. Russell's was shot blocking and intensive rebounding. Previous to Russell, basketball centers were the guys who stuffed the basketball into the hoop. Russell's technique was to take this function to the other end of the court, and stuff the ball down the other team's throats.

Then again, the center gets the rebound, too. Much more than just a good scorer, the center's main functions in the contempo rary game are to block the opposition's shots and to feed the ball to his team. Russell is responsible for working that transformation. He was also the first black man to coach an NBA team. That he and Cousy should happen to the same team in an overlapping time frame was what made the Boston Celtics the most dominant team in basketball history. In 13 seasons with the Celtics, Russell led the team to 11 NBA championships, in 1957, 1959, 1960, 1961. 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965,1966, 1968 and 1969. He won the Most Valuable Player Award five times; had 21,620 career rebounds, with a rebounding average of 22.5; set a record of rebounds per game, at 51; and led the league in rebounding four times. Russell coached the Celtics from 1966-1968, winning an NBA Championshp in 1968. He retired the following year to become a sportscaster. He returned to basketball in 1973 to coach the Seattle Supersonics. In 1974, Russell was elected to the Hall of Fame, and in 1975, the Supersonics made the playoffs for the first time.