In memory of the player that redefined the game, the social consciousness of athletes, and equality in coaching in the NBA
What do you define greatness by? Is it winning championships? Is it dominating ability? Is it being a great citizen of your sport during and after your playing days? By whatever terms you measure greatness, Bill Russell was the definition of it. The accolades speak for themselves, he was the face of the early era of basketball and is a Hall-Of-Famer both as a player and a coach. But outside of the hardwood, Bill Russell was an even better human being. A trailblazer that paved the way for the modern athlete. Russell passed away peacefully on July 31st, 2022 in his sleep, and was the definition of 1 of 1.
The Archetype of a Winner
Any sort of accolades that a player would hope to reach in basketball was achieved by Russell. He won at the high school level (two state championships), college-level (two-time NCAA champion), the Olympic level (1956 gold medal), and of course the NBA-level (11-time champion). Outside of team winning, Russell was a five-time league MVP, 11-time All-NBA selection, and 12-time All-Star. He is regarded as one of (if not the) greatest defender in NBA history. He redefined the way that defense was played that helped shape the games of countless NBA centers that followed him.
To this day, players that play defense with the same sort of verticality and rebound with ferocity are still compared to Bill Russell. In his 13 seasons as a player, he never averaged less than 18 rebounds per game which is absurd to even imagine today. The NBA didn’t start recording blocks until 1974, meaning that Russell’s block averages are unknown but many have speculated that he averaged over 8 blocks per game, making him the most prolific shot blocker the league has ever seen. He remains the gold standard of defensive play for centers even over 50 years since he retired from the game.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Russell’s career is that he continually denied the great Wilt Chamberlain time and time again in the playoffs. Wilt only won one title during the…