July 31, 2022

Boston Celtics Great Bill Russell Dies: The Boston Celtics legend, Basketball Hall of Famer and civil rights activist Bill Russell died Sunday. He was 88. Russell won 11 NBA championships in 13 years in Boston. He averaged 22.5 rebounds a game, pulling down 21,620 in his career, and was voted the greatest NBA player ever by basketball journalists in 1980. Russell became the Celtics player-coach in 1966, making him the first Black coach in any major U.S. pro sport.

posted by rcade to basketball at 02:57 PM - 6 comments

This op-ed from his daughter Karen describing the racism she and her family endured is quite something (Open NYT link).

We received threatening letters, and my parents notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation. What I find most telling about this episode is that years later, after Congress had passed the Freedom of Information Act, my father requested his F.B.I. file and found that he was repeatedly referred to therein as ''an arrogant Negro who won't sign autographs for white children.''

posted by rumple at 03:23 PM on July 31, 2022

We also lost Nichelle Nichols, aka Lt Uhura, today. Two giants in one day.

posted by NoMich at 04:49 PM on July 31, 2022


posted by tommybiden at 06:03 PM on July 31, 2022

The supposedly arrogant Bill Russell came to my almost all white high school in Connecticut to speak in 1970. This was before the Boston busing crisis began, and Boston public schools were still segregated to a great degree. It was a tense period of time a few weeks prior to the Kent State shootings.

Our school did not have a history of hosting famous speakers, so I have no idea who convinced him to come or why he chose to do it. Regardless, just being in the same room with him, listening to him speak, and looking way up at him and shaking his hand afterward was transformative. It was an hour or two out of a probably ordinary day for him, but those of us who were there will never forget it.

I was lucky enough to go to a few 1980's Celtics games in the old Garden and be close enough to say something in a conversational tone to Bird or DJ, but those moments can't compare to the experience with Bill Russell.

posted by beaverboard at 07:06 PM on July 31, 2022

I was at his 1st game in the NBA, in the old Garden. I think it was a Saturday afternoon game in mid-December 1956. I was 15, and some of my buddies who were on our CYO team came along with me. Dunking the basketball was the ultimate success in our minds, so finally having a Celtic who could get far enough off the floor to do so was something to wait for. We were in the 1st balcony, directly behind the basket where the Celtics were doing their pre-game layup line. Will he dunk? Is he going to do it? That was our hope, but he never even came close. Classic layups, basket approached from slightly to one side, ball thrown gently off the backboard, and that was all. I remember being a bit disappointed. I think Bill Russell made up for it during the rest of his basketball career and indeed his life.

posted by Howard_T at 01:58 PM on August 01, 2022

posted by Howard_T at 01:58 PM on August 01, 2022

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