Bill Russell -AKA: William Felton Russell, born February 12, 1934 in Monroe, LA.
During Bill Russell’s 13-year NBA playing career he was honored with the prestigious MVP title 5 times in his career. During his team play with the Boston Celtics he won 11 championships, a record for winning unmatched by any player in any sport. In his professional career, Russell averaged only 15 points per game, but he was an outstanding defensive player like no other player before, proving that offense really is only half of the game. As a center player, opposing teams were forced to shoot from outside, unable to find an easy lay-up. Russell led the league records for rebounds five times. His height and agility allowed him to leap and block shots intimidating fellow players for that era in basketball playing. He would undoubtedly hold the career record for blocked shots.
Early in Russell’s career he joined the starting line-up as a senior at his school, as his team won the league championship. At USF he made the varsity team in his sophomore year, and in his junior and senior year USF won two consecutive NCAA championships. Russell changed the way the game was played- in response to his dominance during the 1955 NCAA tournament, collegiate coaches introduced two key rule changes — the free throw lane where defensive players are not allowed to congregate was widened from ten feet to twelve, and goaltending was banned. After graduation he was traded to the Boston Celtics- missing the first month of his rookie season due to fulfilling a childhood dream by playing for the US Olympic basketball team and winning a Gold Medal.
After his playing career, Russell worked as a coach and sports commentator. Russell was also an outspoken advocate for civil rights. He spoke at the 1963 March on Washington. In 1967, still playing for the Celtics, Russell was promoted to coach, making him the first African-American to coach a major league professional sports team. The next season he became the first African-American coach to win an NBA championship.