Baller of the Day: Bill Russell

» September 22, 2008 5:30 AM | By Brandon Hoffman

Bill Russell

Career Statistics

15.1 PPG, 4.3 APG, 22.5 RPG, 44 FG%, 56 FT%

“Bill Russell was the cornerstone of the Boston Celtics’ dynasty of the 1960s, an uncanny shotblocker who revolutionized NBA defensive concepts. A five-time NBA Most Valuable Player and a 12-time All-Star, the angular center amassed 21,620 career rebounds, an average of 22.5 per game and led the league in rebounding four times. He had 51 boards in one game, 49 in two others and a dozen consecutive seasons of 1,000 or more rebounds.

His many individual accolades were well deserved, but they were only products of Russell’s philosophy of team play. His greatest accomplishment was bringing the storied Celtics 11 championships in his 13 seasons. Until the ascent of Michael Jordan in the 1980s, Russell was acclaimed by many as the greatest player in the history of the NBA.

William Felton Russell was born on February 12, 1934, in Monroe, Louisiana. His family moved cross-country to the San Francisco Bay Area, where Bill attended McClymonds High School in Oakland. He was an awkward, unremarkable center on McClymonds’s basketball team, but his size earned him a scholarship to play at the University of San Francisco, where he blossomed.

Russell grew to be a shade over 6-9, and he teamed with guard K. C. Jones to lead the Dons to 56 consecutive victories and NCAA Championships in 1955 and 1956 (although Jones missed four games of the 1956 tournament because his eligibility had expired). Russell was named the NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player in 1955.

Russell averaged 20.7 points and 20.3 rebounds in his three-year varsity career. By his senior season he had matured into a dominant force who could control a game at the defensive end. With the 1956 NBA Draft approaching, Boston Celtics Coach and General Manager Red Auerbach was eager to add Russell to his lineup. Auerbach had built a high-scoring offensive machine around guards Bob Cousy and Bill Sharman and undersized center Ed Macauley, but he hadn’t been able to muster the defense and rebounding needed to transform the Celtics into a championship-caliber club. Russell, Auerbach felt, was the missing piece to the puzzle.” [Read]

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