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Bill Russel

Wilt Chamberlain

Bill Russel was born in Monroe, Louisiana. In his 13-year career with the Celtics, Russell put a very good show for his team to win 11 NBA championships.

As a child, Russell’s family shifted from Louisiana to California to escape racialism in the South. He played center for McClymonds High School in Oakland, California, and gained an athletic scholarship to the University of San Francisco. There, he became popular for his shot-blocking skills and strong defense and helped his team to 2 NCAA championships, in 1955 and 1956. Despite of his success, Russell went through racial abuse from viewers and others in the course of his playing career. After college, he led the United States basketball team that won gold by beating the Soviet Union at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. After the Olympics, Russell joined the Boston Celtics in December 1956.

Prior to Russell’s arrival, the Celtics had never won a National Basketball Association championship. The team grabbed their first title in 1957 under the guidance of coach Red Auerbach, and Russell and the Celtics were on their way to becoming a dominant side in the basketball. Russell was awarded with the league’s Most Valuable Player 5 times and played in twelve All-Star games in the course of his career. His biggest competitor was center Wilt Chamberlain, who came in NBA in 1959. Russell’s career record of 21,620 rebounds was wrecked only by Chamberlain’s 23,924 rebounds. Off the basketball court, the two became very good friends. He was a strong team player, but off the court, the media regarded him aloof and he rejected to sign autographs for fans.

Prior to the 1966-67 season Red Auerbach retired from the game and, Russell was named player-coach, and was the first black to represent as a head coach of any team in all of American professional sports. In the last two seasons of his career, 1967-68 and 1968-69, Russell won his tenth and eleventh NBA championships with the Celtics. After finishing his career as a player, Russell coached the Sacramento Kings and the Seattle SuperSonics, worked as a sports commentator and wrote books. Russell, who gone through continuous racism during his playing career, both at home in Boston and on the road.

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