Birthday: February 12, 1934
African American Men
African American Athletes
Age: 86 Years, 86 Year Old Males
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Also Known As: William Felton Russell
Born in: Monroe, Louisiana
Famous as: American basketball player
Height: 6'10" (208 cm), 6'10" Males
Spouse/Ex-: Dorothy Anstett (m. 1977–1980), Marilyn Nault (m. 1996–2009), Rose Swisher (m. 1956–1973)
mother: Katie Russell
siblings: Charlie L. Russell
children: Jacob Russell, Karen Russell, William Russell Jr.
U.S. State: Kansas, Louisiana, African-American From Louisiana
education: University of San Francisco, McClymonds High School
awards: 1955 - NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player
1955-1956 - 2× NCAA champion
1963 - NBA All-Star Game MVP
1957–1959 - 5× NBA rebounding champion
1964–1965 - 5× NBA rebounding champion
1958 - 5× NBA Most Valuable Player
1965 - 5× NBA Most Valuable Player
1961–1963 - 5× NBA Most Valuable Player
1957 - 11× NBA champion
1959–1966 - 11× NBA champion
1968–1969 - 11× NBA champion
Regarded as one of the best ever players in the history of National Basketball Association (NBA), William Felton “Bill” Russell is a retired professional basketball player who was the centerpiece of the Boston’s Celtics dynasty for a period of 13 years. He was very famous for his shot-blocking and man-to-man defense which led his team to many victories in major tournaments. The talented player had grown up in a neighbourhood notorious for its rampant racism. Basketball provided him a means of rising above this issue and he got the chance as a professional player to prove his mettle. He was also much respected for his ability to inspire and motivate his team members to improve their playing techniques and give their best performances. Equally skilled at grabbing rebounds, he is just one of the only two players to have made more than 50 rebounds in a single game and has had a dozen consecutive seasons of 1,000 or more rebounds. Russell’s superstardom is special not just because of his amazing performances, what makes his success even more special is the fact that he was the first African American player in NBA history to achieve such glory, and he was also the first African American to become an NBA coach.
Childhood & Early Life
He was the son of Charles and Katie Russell. He grew up in a racially segregated neighbourhood where his family was often subjected to rampant acts of racism.
He had a difficult childhood and grew up in poverty. He lost his mother when he was just 12 years old.
He went to McClymonds High School where he started playing basketball. His coach, George Powles, encouraged the youngster to develop his skills and become a good player.
He was offered a scholarship from the University of San Francisco (USF). He was very happy to receive this scholarship as it provided him an opportunity to escape a life of poverty and racism.
He thrived at USF under Coach Phil Woolpert who helped him develop his unique technique of defense. He became the centerpiece of a USF team that became a formidable college basketball team.
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He was selected by the Boston Celtics during the 1956 NBA Draft because of his defensive toughness and rebounding prowess. However before his rookie year he was made the captain of the U.S. national basketball team that competed at the 1956 Summer Olympics. He helped the team win a Gold medal.
He started playing for the Celtics in the 1956-57 season in December. He played 48 games with an average of 14.7 points per game and 19.6 rebounds per game. The Celtics were already a high-scoring team but the addition of Russell added to their strengths.
In his first NBA playoff game against the Syracuse Nationals in 1957, he finished with 16 points and 31 rebounds along with 7 blocks. The Celtics managed a 108-89 victory and swept the Nationals in three games.
In the beginning of the 1957-58 season the Celtics won 14 straight games. He was named the NBA Most Valuable Player for that season. His team won 49 games and easily made the first berth in the 1958 NBA Playoffs.
His amazing performance continued in the 1958-59 season where he averaged 16.7 points per game and 23.0 rebounds per game. The Celtics won 52 games—a league record.
The Celtics played against the Philadelphia Warriors in November 1959. The game was primarily considered a match between Russell and the Warriors’ center Wilt Chamberlain—both of whom were amazing centers. The Celtics won the match 115-106.
Russell averaged 16.9 points and 23.9 rebounds per game in the 1960-61 season leading his team to 57-22 record. The following season the Celtics became the first team to win 60 games in a season and he was again voted as NBA’s Most Valuable Player.
He scored 15.0 ppg and 24.7 rebounds per game during the 1963-64 season. He kept up his excellent performance during the 1964-65 season too when he helped the Celtics win a league-record of 62 games.
The Celtic coach Red Auerbach retired before the 1966-67 season. Russell was offered the role of becoming a player-coach which he accepted—making him the first African American NBA coach.
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He was growing older and tired and by the 1967-68 season his figures were slowly declining. However he still made 12.5 points per game and 18.6 rebounds per game. He ended his playing career at the age of 35.
Awards & Achievements
He is one of the most successful players ever to have graced American basketball. He won 11 NBA championships as a player with the Boston Celtics in 13 seasons. He is just the second player to have ever made 51 rebounds in a single game and the first NBA player to average more than 20 rebounds per game for an entire season.
He won five regular season MVP awards and was selected three times to the all-NBA First Teams.
He was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama in 2011 for his accomplishments in the Civil Rights Movement, both on and off the court.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married his college sweetheart Rose Swisher in 1956. They had three children and divorced in 1973.
He married former Miss USA, Dorothy Anstett, a white woman, in 1977. Their marriage was short-lived as they divorced in 1980.
His third marriage was to Marilyn Nault which lasted till her death in 2009.
The NBA Finals MVP Award was renamed the Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP Award in his honour in 2009.
This basketball great was declared as the "Greatest Player in the History of the NBA" by the Professional Basketball Writers Association of America in 1980.