William Felton Russell was born on February 12, 1934, in Monroe, Louisiana. Although Russell never had a nickname when he played, many years and basketball championships later, he would become known as the G.O.A.T. (The Greatest of All-Time). After moving with his family across the country to Oakland, Bill’s dominating playing career began in high school then at the University of San Francisco where he and K.C. Jones lead The Dons to 55 consecutive wins and back to back NCAA championships. Bill won the Tournament's Most Outstanding Player award in 1955 and averaged 20.7 points and an astounding 20.3 rebounds per game. He then went to the Olympics to earn a Gold Medal in the 1956 Olympic Games.
He was drafted as the second pick to the St. Louis Hawks and was traded immediately to the Boston Celtics, where he would win 11 Championships in 13 years with 8 in a row, the rest is history. A record that will never be challenged again in the history of the league.
In 1966-69, he took over as player-coach and was the first African-American head coach in professional sports history. A little known fact, he never had any assistant coaches. Bill’s dominance on defense literally changed the way the game was played by future generations. His "team first“ mentality was hailed by his teammates as the reason the Celtics became a dynasty. Bill retired from playing and began a coaching career at the Seattle SuperSonics from 1973-77 and again in 1987-1988 for the Sacramento Kings.
The Boston Celtics retired his #6 Jersey not just once but twice. In 2009 Commissioner David Stern renamed the NBA MVP award to the Bill Russell MVP Finals Award. Among his many honors and awards, Bill was named 5X MVP (voted by the player’s in the league) and 12X NBA All-Star, & Top 50 players in NBA history.
In 2019 Bill accepted his nomination into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame that he had originally rejected in 1975. His reason for not accepting it at that time? As only the “team-first” legend would do, he didn’t believe he should be the first African-American player to be inducted into the Hall when there had been so many worthy African-American candidates before him. And those are just some of his basketball accolades.
Of course, we have to mention the enormous role he played in support and activism in the Civil Rights movement. In 2010 President Obama awarded Bill with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.