Bill Russell: A True Winner
Yesterday, commissioner David Stern announced that, starting this year, the NBA Finals MVP will be renamed the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player in honor of the
If Russell didn’t define what a winner was, nobody did. The only pleasure I ever had to watch Russell and the dynasty he created was on Saturday mornings on ESPN classic. I can remember watching him in epic battles against Jerry West and the Lakers, day in and day out. But Russell was so much more than Saturday morning re-run entertainment. What made Russell one of the greatest players of our time was his ability to win at any level. Before he personally hung 11 banners in The Garden, Russell won two national championships with the University of San Fransisco in 1955 and 1956, and during his time there won multiple events in the high jump, including the Central California AAU meet, the Pacific AAU meet, and the West Coast Relays.
After dominating college, Russell went to the Olympics for part of the 1956 season before joining the Boston Celtics. There, his team won the gold medal in basketball in one of the most dominating Olympic teams of all time, winning games by an average of 55 points.
As for his time in Boston, all Russell did was win 11 titles in 13 seasons and 5 NBA MVPS, as well as being elected to 12 all star games, winning the MVP of the game once. His number was retired just 3 years after he retired, and was elected to the Hall of Fame 3 years after that.
The real crime is that the NBA Finals MVP did not come out until the last year of Russell’s storied career. In that year, the Celtics won their last title with Russell, but the MVP went to Jerry West of the Lakers in what would be the only time a player on a losing team won the award. It’s a shame that Russell wasn’t able to add a few more pieces of hardware to his trophy collection, but the honor bestowed to him all but makes up for it. Everyone knew how good Russell was, and now his legacy will continue to live on.
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