Clearing out Bill Russell clutter

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Clearing out Bill Russell clutter

Post by rickdavisakaspike on Sat Jul 07, 2012 11:15 am

Too many notebooks, too much clutter. That's why I'm dumping this stuff on you all. These are random notes from various books and interviews.

Considering his importance, very little has been written about Bill Russell and there are relevant, isolated facts all over. If you bring one fact from this book and one fact from that interview, you get a story that's hardly been told. Besides that, I like to write about Bill Russell because he's fun and I like to keep my pencil sharp.

Strength of Character

Trying to figure out what it is about Bill Russell that sets him apart from everyone else, I came across a phrase that sums it up: Strength of Character. Not only did he revolutionize basketball and lead a teamful of champions, he had a family and raised children, was an entrepeneur, wrote books, risked his life to march against hatred, and forged noble friendships. Certainly Bill's father, Mister Charlie, had the most profound influence on Bill's character development as a teen, but USF freshman coach Ross Guidice's positive influence was quiet but quite powerful.

Learning the trade

At USF, Ross Guidice taught Bill basketball fundamentals: how to move his feet, how to set picks and screens, how to fight through and around picks and screens, how to run as fast backward as he could run forward, how to pivot and spin left and right, how to lay the ball in left and right, how to dribble, how to pass, how to shoot the hook left and right, and much, much more.

Some things Bill taught himself: how to position his body, how to anticipate a shot or a rebound, how to find a player's blind spot, how to leap and land with both knees flexed.

According to Bill: "Every move takes five years of practice."


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Re: Clearing out Bill Russell clutter

Post by MDCelticsFan on Mon Jul 09, 2012 1:37 pm

Bill Russell & Jim Brown have that E. F. Hutton mystique. When those two talk, People Listen!

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Re: Clearing out Bill Russell clutter

Post by rickdavisakaspike on Wed Jul 25, 2012 12:32 pm

Figure I'll continue posting this clutter here unless anyone has any objections. This finishes off one notebook but there are more.

Coming of Age

It's a fairly good guess that Bill finally figured out how to dominate a game sometime in his senior year in high school. His sure hands, uncanny anticipation, and instant reflexes helped him steal a lot of passes. His fierce competitive energy propelled him toward every loose ball. He could control the game without having the ball in his hands. He was six feet six inches tall and could leap through the roof. He couldn't shoot from outside but he could score all he wanted in close, on tip-ins, steered shots and put-backs. He was so unstoppable on the boards that he could score any time he wanted. He preferred to score in flurries and to wait for crucial moments in order to demoralize the other team.

That's a picture of the wiry, unorthodox player that Hal DeJulio, unofficial scout for USF, saw when he serendipitously attended Bill's final high school game. There were two things that DeJulio said stood out in that game: the timing of Bill's scoring and the dizzying heights of his leap.

After DeJulio discovered him, the sport of basketball seemed to beckon to Bill Russell, as he toured the Pacific Northwest with a team of all-stars from Oakland.

Bill had never witnessed anyone block a shot until he did it himself. He didn't say where, but it was probably in the Oakland Boys Club. The first time USF coach Phil Woolpert ever heard of Bill was when one of his players reported that he had played in a pickup game at the Oakland Boys Club and he didn't score a point because a tall, skinny high school kid blocked all his shots.

Bill wasn't allowed to block shots at McClymonds High School, not if it required jumping. Players in the early 1950s were coached never to leave their feet, except for rebounding. Even Red Auerbach, in his instructional book, Basketball for the Player, Coach and Fan, in his first piece of advice to players, cautioned, "Never leave your feet."

Fortunately for Red's future success, Bill ignored his advice when it came to jumping.


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Re: Clearing out Bill Russell clutter

Post by rickdavisakaspike on Tue Nov 06, 2012 4:32 pm

"We changed the game. I think you can say we developed a whole new philosophy of basketball. We attacked the offense and made it react to the defense."

- Bill Russell

In 1952, USF coach Phil Woolpert made a pilgrimage to Lawrence, Kansas, a kind of basketball mecca in those day, home of the perennial champion Jayhawks, led by legendary coach Phog Allen, and the still-living ghost of basketball past, Dr. James Naismith.

Woolpert went to Kansas for one reason only - to learn defense; specifically, Kansas's man-to-man pressure defense that stretched out the offense, cut off the passing lanes, and made it difficult to advance the ball. Phog Allen's Jayhawk defenses of the early 1950s were the first in the college game to use man-to-man pressure: that's according to Dean Smith, who played on those Kansas teams and became a legend himself.

It was an era when offenses were plodding and patterned, when defense was a time for players to catch their breath. Woolpert was one of the first to envision a different kind of basketball. He had given scholarships to two young men, K.C. Jones and Bill Russell, not for basketball ability but for speed and agility. Although he had only the faintest notion of what these phenomenal athletes were capable, Woolpert took a risk and, because of his boldness, helped to change the game.

Bill Russell and K.C. Jones had their own vision of what the game was about. Together, they developed the geometry of basketball. Although eventually, they brought the vertical element of the game to the forefront - by leaping to block shots and dunk balls - they realized the horizontal calculations were more relevant.

Most rebounds, Bill noted, are taken at or below the level of the basket. This led Bill and K.C. to conclude that leaping ability is not as decisive as timing, anticipation, and lateral movement.

They studied lines, distances and angles. In the horizontal game, speed, agility and reflexes were huge advantages. Working together, Bill and K.C. thought up and diagrammed hypothetical plays, studied and analyzed the varying movements of all ten players on the floor, and calculated the innumerable tendencies and probabilities. Perhaps because they thought up these hypotheticals together, their projected defensive solutions to offensive problems always envisioned the defenses playing as a team.

Two young college guys, conceiving of defense as a weapon, developed an entire repertoire of plays, moves, countemoves, tactics and strategies to pressure offenses, to force them to react to what the defense was doing. They endeavored to mystify, mislead and surprise offenses, - to create confusion, fear and paralysis.

Their defensive strategy started with the blocked shot. Bill didn't develop the move until after he graduated high school. He had never seen anyone make such a play until he did it himself in a pick-up game. Had he tried it during a high school game, he would have been warned against it. Leaving your feet to block an opponent's shot, or to take a jump shot, while still a forbidden move in basketball, would not be so for long.

College offenses in the early 1950s practiced set plays designed to create layups or open shots. Defensive players were coached to front their man, to try and deny him the entry pass. Once their man received the pass, he had a clear path to the basket. There was no concept of helping out, switching, or team defense - not, that is, until Bill Russell and K.C. Jones came along.

Until Bill Russell arrived, no one had seen an athlete leap high in the air and swat a shot away. Bill was a natural when it came to jumping, but he nevertheless worked on his leap. At twelve years old, and six feet two inches tall, he was new to basketball but recognized that sometimes you had to jump four or five times or more to pull down a rebound. So he practiced continuous leaping, routinely touching the top of the rim twenty times or more nonstop.

Bill easily could leap four or five feet in the air. Added to that, he was quick off his feet. Applying their geometrical analysis, Bill and K.C. determined that the best way to block a shot is to delay your leap until after the ball has left the shooter's hands; then, leap straight up instead of forward into the shooter, thereby avoiding causing a foul. They also determined that you didn't have to get your entire hand on the ball; a fingertip would suffice to deflect.

Over the years, Bill came up with thousands of ways of blocking shots. Right back in your face was one of the most spectacular. With practice, he also found that he he could tip the ball to himself or to a teammate. The blocked shot that zoomed halfway down the court into the waiting hands of a fastbreaking teammate, became one of the most feared and terrifying plays in basketball, a four-point turnaround and a psychological blunt force trauma to the other team.


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Re: Clearing out Bill Russell clutter

Post by sam on Tue Nov 06, 2012 6:48 pm

I think Bill Russell is swell.

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Re: Clearing out Bill Russell clutter

Post by cowens/oldschool on Wed Nov 07, 2012 12:02 am

WOW never read that quote before of "we attacked the offense and made it react to the defense" luv it

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Re: Clearing out Bill Russell clutter

Post by rickdavisakaspike on Wed Jan 02, 2013 4:55 pm


The following is from another notebook: in fact, this is the one with the research I've been looking for. It struck me long ago that there was no acceptable game-by-game account of the Celtics' improbable 1969 championship, so I decided to take notes from the different sources in case I had nothing better to do someday.

That's how, a few years back, I found myself in the micro documents section of Boston's Copley Library scribbling notes while waiting for my lady friend to max out her credit card on Newbury Street. That's also why the research ends suddenly with Game 6. All of it is from actual newspaper accounts, rewritten in my own words.

Prelude

Player/coach Bill Russell started the 1968-69 season uncharacteristically overweight and out of shape. There was a reason: he was tired.

No one else on earth can testify, but Bil Russell provides proof that, when you climb to the top of Mount Olympus ten times - you get tired.

In the spring of 1968, Russell took home his tenth championship ring, the one he called the "most satisfying," when the Celtics demolished all contenders, including Wilt and Philadelphia, who had wrestled away the title the year before.

Game 1 - Lakers 120 Celtics 118

There was tremendous pre-game hype, due to the depth of the rivalry - these teams had battled in 6 of the previous 8 NBA Finals - and the presence of Wilt Chamberlain. It was thought that the Lakers had always lost because they had no one to match Bill Russell. Now, with Wilt, they did.

And Game 1 lived up to the hype: after the game, Jerry West called it the most exciting sports event that I have ever participated in."

Emmette Bryant, assigned to cover Jerry West, had 3 fouls in the first 5 minutes. Bryant still managed to score 17 points, 13 in the first half. It was Bryant's contribution to the running game that mattered most, according to coach Bill Russell. "Em has become a key man for us. He keeps us moving."

Tom Sanders was sidelined by muscle spasms in the back.

Captain John Havlicek had 37 points, Sam Jones 21, Don Nelson 16.

Bill Russell had 16 points and 27 rebounds: Wilt had 15 points and 23 caroms.

Bill Russell was asked if he would change his strategy after Game 1. Russ replied, "If we lost by 18 points or so, I would definitely consider changing our strategy, but when the game is as close as the first one there's nothing much more you can do."

West had a thought on the subject: "I think you'll see a tighter defensive game Friday."

West had 53 points but Wilt made the play of the game. With 23 seconds remaining, there was a mad scramble for the rebound off a missed Jerry West 20-footer. The ball was batted in the air and bounced off the backboard. Wilt snared the offensive rebound and soared skyward for a loud stuff and a 3-point lead the Lakers wouldn't relinquish.

Game 2 - Lakers 118 Celtics 112

As in Game 1, the Celtics had the lead early in the fourth quarter.

Elgin Baylor had 37 points, including exploding for the Lakers' last 12 points to run away with the win. West had 41 and Johnny Egan 26.

John Havlicek had 43 points and fouled out in the final seconds. Sam Jones had 21 and Bailey Howell 16.

Game 3 - Celtics 111 Lakers 105

The Cs came out of the blocks on fire defensively and, liberally using the full-court press, held the Lakers to 16 points in the first period and 24 points in the second.

Havlicek had 34 points in the game, Larry Siegfried 28, Sam Jones 15, Bill Russell 11 and Bailey Howell 10.

Siggy's 11-point outburst in the final quarter combined with Havlicek's 13 fourth-quarter points to put away L.A.

Siggy said, "The playoffs are much more fun because of the importance of the games . . . and it's good to make a contribution to a wim like we had this afternoon . . . It's bigger for me because what I lack in ability I have to make up with hustle."

LA coach Bill van Breda Kolff spoke about Siegfried and the Celtics frantic press: "I think they pressed us a little more, picked us up a little earlier, than they did in the first two games. They can do that with Siegfried in there, but he'll usually foul out in that type of game."

Siggy was not even expected to play. He had a pulled hamstring, bruised knee, bruised hip, and swollen elbows.

Although Siggy played 33 minutes in Game 3, coach Russell wasn't sure if he would even play in Game 4: "I'll have to wait and see. You know, it might sound corny to some people but these guys are my friends and I won't use them if the injuries might cause them harm."

Russell was asked if he thought the series would go 7 games.: "I can't answer that because someone could get hurt tomorrow and it could disrupt a team's play."

When John Havlicek was accidently headbutted to the floor at the end of the game, Bill Russell was the first to his side and helped him to his feet. Russell walked Havlicek to the bench with his arm around his shoulders.

Game 4 - Celtics 89 Lakers 88

Siggy played 30 minutes and scored 20 points.

It was a poorly-played game. The Cs shot 31 of 98, the Lakers went 35 of 89. It was one of the wildest finishes ever. Emmette Bryant stole the game.

Bill Russell told reporters: "I can't account for it, but we'll take it. We're not proud."




to be continued shortly

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Re: Clearing out Bill Russell clutter

Post by RosalieTCeltics on Wed Jan 02, 2013 7:01 pm

God, I loved that team. They played with all guts, not caring about the individual glory. It was a fun time to follow basketball,as I am sure Sam has told people time and again.

Russell was one of a kind. Havlicek had the heart of a lion, Sam....well he was just Sam....and the rest of the team were just great teammates. Siggy was a favorite of mine, but Havlicek and Russell truly are my favorites of that era.

I lived thru it but I can't wait for your next contribution to this continuing story!!!


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Re: Clearing out Bill Russell clutter

Post by sam on Wed Jan 02, 2013 7:05 pm

Spike,

I can't wait to read what happened five seconds after Emmette stole the game. By the way, as the ultimate Sam Jones fan, I hate to admit that the Celts had two shots at the winner but Sam misfired on the first one. Only because Bryant stole the ball on the ensuing Lakers' possession did Sam get the final chance.

In my book, Emmette was the unsung hero of those playoffs. In game 7, he unleashed a fusillade of successful field goals that put the Lakers in catch-up mode for virtually the entire game.

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Re: Clearing out Bill Russell clutter

Post by cowens/oldschool on Thu Jan 03, 2013 9:49 am

I was a kid and remember Russell winning the opening tip off in game 7, and Sam I remember Emette Bryant no 7 getting off to a fast start, hitting everything....then I fell asleep.

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Re: Clearing out Bill Russell clutter

Post by sam on Thu Jan 03, 2013 12:45 pm

Cow,

You fell asleep? Maybe because it was such a boring game? How old were you at that time?

Yes, I will always maintain that, without Emmette, the Celtics would not have won either Game 7 or those Finals.

I always thought it interesting that the Celtics could win that game with an older team and a seven-man rotation. That was a major reason why it was so important for them to get out of the gate and force the Lakers to expend a lot of energy playing catchup. Many people overlook the fact that they got limited minutes out of Tom Sanders (their best defender against Baylor)—and Satch didn't play at all in Game 7.

I will always claim that the 1969 playoff win by the Celtics was the most formidable team achievement—against enormous odds—in the history of the NBA. And I absolutely guarantee that there are many barbers, taxi drivers, and basketball fans around the country who used to disagree but have been set straight.

Hey TJ, I bet threads like this are your favorite things about this board. Only kidding, because you've proven you can take it.

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Re: Clearing out Bill Russell clutter

Post by rickdavisakaspike on Thu Jan 03, 2013 2:45 pm


Continuing with Game 4 notes:

The Cs went scoreless for more than four minutes until Emmette Bryant "cashed a free throw" with 15 seconds left, making the score 88-87 Lakers.

Bryant then swooped in, stole the inbounds pass, and fed Sam Jones who missed badly with 7 seconds left, the ball bouncing out of bounds.

The Cs called timeout. As play resumed, the ball found Sam Jones again, who made one of the clutch baskets of all time.

With one second remaining, Jerry West made the inbounds pass and John Havlicek stole the ball.

West tallied 40 points. Havlicek had 21 points, while Sam Jones and Bailey Howell had 16 each.

Russ had 6 points and 29 boards: Wilt had 8 and 31.

Game 5 - Lakers 117 Celtics 104

The Lakers were badly shaken by the Game 4 loss but came back strong.

Jerry West scored 28 of his 39 points in the second half and pulled a hamstring in the final minutes.

The Cs weren't worried that the injury would hurt West's performance. Said John Havlicek, "The only way West can't hurt you is if he's on crutches or in a hospital bed. On one leg, Jerry's as good as anyone in the NBA."

Sam Jones had 25 points, Siggy had 20, Havlicek 18.

Bill Russell had 5 personal fouls and only grabbed 13 rebounds to Wilt's 30 boards.

Game 6 - Celtics 99 Lakers 90

When the players were introduced before tipoff, Sam Jones, playing in his final game in Boston Garden, received a thunderous standing ovation.


That's as far as my research went that day in the BPL Micro Documents room. At that point, I got called away by a woman who wouldn't know Emmette Bryant from Kobe Bryant. If anyone wants to spend an interesting hour or two, I heartily recommend squinting through those old newspapers. You might be surprised to find, for example, that while the elder Bryant was stealing away L.A.'s heart, Richard Nixon was telling the world (a bit prematurely) that Charles Manson was guilty.

Game 7 - Celtics 108 Lakers 106

No game notes, just this: in one of his later books or interviews, Red Auerbach provided the answer to one of the enduring mysteries of that unforgettable series: specifically, what happened to the balloons. Red said they were given to a nearby children's hospital. Awww! Happy results all around, except for the plastic people, who, as KG would say, melted.




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Re: Clearing out Bill Russell clutter

Post by sam on Thu Jan 03, 2013 4:12 pm

Spike,

With respect to Game 4, I don't recall any play by West with one second to go. I thought the buzzer sounded as Sam's winning shot was bouncing around the rim.

Also, I think the situation was that Bryant stole the ball when the Lakers were passing it in after Sam had missed the shot that could have put the Celtics ahead. I think Sam's shot had gone out of bounds, giving the Lakers the ball.

The sustained roar for Sam at the beginning of Game 6 remains one of my most emotionally charged basketball thrills. For the first time all season, they deliberately introduced Sam first. As he characteristically loped out to the foul line, the place erupted —one of those dins that seems to be subsiding only to build again and again like waves on the shore. And Sam, definitely fighting hears, stood humbly and all alone under the banners with his hands clasped in front of him.

Later, at his retirement party in his town of Sharon, Sam would be unable to prevent the flood when he made his acceptance speech for a gift from the town—a gorgeous work table customized to his height in anticipation of his upcoming coaching job at Federal City College in D.C. A few seconds into his speech, his voice actually sounded almost like an escalating siren as he forced out the words, "When we came here, we had nobody. Now we got everybody." A more humble, appreciative person never walked this earth.

I am so very proud of my avatar on this forum. To me, it represents what Sam Jones was all about.

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Re: Clearing out Bill Russell clutter

Post by RosalieTCeltics on Thu Jan 03, 2013 7:33 pm

He was the best Sam, a humble, talented, driven ballplayer. I enjoyed every game I ever watched him play in. There was no way you couldn't love Sam Jones, if Russell was the heart of the Celtics, Sam was the soul. He proved it over and over.

I recently found an envelope full of ticket stubs from the 60's. In this mass of stubs was the stub from Sam Jones day and his last game. (The crazy things you hold on to!)

Spike, if it were not for a flood in my basement, I would have had the newspapers from those games in 68-69. All my Celtic memories from that era were destroyed except these ticket stubs.

It was a wonderful time to be a Celtic fan

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Re: Clearing out Bill Russell clutter

Post by cowens/oldschool on Thu Jan 03, 2013 8:11 pm

Sam

I think I was 9, just started watching game, but also remember my father screaming the year before on the TV when they beat Philly and understanding the concept that they came back from 3-1, how that was never done before.

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Re: Clearing out Bill Russell clutter

Post by sam on Thu Jan 03, 2013 9:18 pm

Rosalie,

I'm so sorry about your ruined newspapers. They would have provided additional perspective on an amazing year. I'm glad you still have the ticket stubs. Memories are almost as important as breathing, and any memory prompts you have are valuable.

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Re: Clearing out Bill Russell clutter

Post by sam on Thu Jan 03, 2013 9:24 pm

Cow, you struck it rich to have the 1968-69 as your first NBA season.

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Re: Clearing out Bill Russell clutter

Post by rickdavisakaspike on Thu Jan 03, 2013 9:41 pm

I'll never forget watching those Finals on television. They were exhilirating, because the Celtics had no business being there (they beat Willis Reed and the Knicks, for crying out loud). They were also nerve-wracking, down by 2 games, the Cs losing in excruciating fashion, all the pains and injuries they were coping with, it seemed as though it was the Lakers year. After the series was over, the one iconic image I remembered most was Russell helping a dazed Havlicek off the floor, his arm around his shoulder. It was an image that captured the spirit of an era.

All the game notes above were scribbled into a notebook while I wound and rewound the microfiche reader. It was fun for me, those old newspapers are a glimpse into another world, and I'm pretty good at it, so I can say with some certainty that what I wrote is a condensed version of what the reporter wrote.

Whether it states what actually happened, specifically, whether the reporter got the order of events right is another question altogether.

I have first-hand experience with how reporters for Boston's large daily newspapers worked in those days, although it was on the city beat, not sports. Sports reporters were not considered serious journalists, for good reasons, and, unless it was an afternoon game, the guy who reported the results of Game 4 was facing a short deadline, and may even have called in the story, writing it as he talked, while someone at the paper typed it up.

His only tools of the trade would have been a steno pad and a couple of pencils. Without instant replay, and with events happening so quickly in the final 15 seconds, he probably hadn't written down anything except Bryant's initials and the time he "cashed his free throw."

I definitely remember Bryant swooping in and stealing the inbounds pass. I also remember Sam's off-balance, heart-in-your-throat shot.

The way the reporter portrayed the events has Emette making the steal and feeding Sam, whereupon Sam misses and the ball goes out of bounds. The Cs call timeout with 7 seconds on the clock, and then inbound the ball, getting it to Sam, who brings down the house. How the Celtics maintained possession after the rebound went out of bounds is unclear.

I definitely don't remember West inbounding the ball with 1 second left, but the reporter included it so I did.

I checked youtube but didn't find the play. What that says, I hate to say.


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Re: Clearing out Bill Russell clutter

Post by rickdavisakaspike on Sun Jan 06, 2013 11:24 am


More from 1969.

Coach Bill van Breda Koff on Bailey Howell: "I told Elgin about him in last year's series. I said, "He can't run, jump or shoot. So all he does is beat you down the floor, get the rebound and score points. He's a great rebounder and you've got to check him out or he'll sneak in for the ball.""

Bailey Howell: "You have to run the Lakers some. If you don't get any fast break baskets for close shots you don't get close shots at all. You can't let Wilt get set up all the time. When he sets up, he forces you outside. You don't ever win with outside shooting."

Jerry West: "Matchups are the thing. In years past we always had strong points, but we always knew the Celtics had strong points we didn't have. [Center] was the big one. We just didn't have anyone that could match Russell. Now we do. Wilt can match Russell very well."

Russ and Wilt

In college Russell's wingspan was measured at 7' 4". In his first interview with the Boston press, he told reporters he weighed 215 pounds and stood 6' 9 and 5/8ths inches tall.

Chamberlain represented himself as 7' 1" tall. Most opponents disagreed, pegging him at 7'2" or 7'3". It appears that his height wasn't measured after high school. His weight fluctuated over the years. He was one of the first professional athletes to lift weights and was solidly muscled. In his rookie season, it was estimated/accepted that he weighed around 250 pounds.

Both Russ and Wilt were extremely sensitive about their height but rarely let on.

When Russ arrived in Boston, Colonel Dave Egan, Boston sports columnist extraordinaire and a huge Celtics fan in a town where most sports reporters ignored the team, called Bill "a fabulous athlete." Bill had qualified for the 1956 U.S. Olympic team in both basketball and the high jump. He was the fastest runner in the league.

As phenomenal as Russ was, Wilt could leap just as high and run just as fast. Wilt had that instinctive basketball sense, court vision, awareness, creativity. He was a tremendous competitor, always at his most dangerous in the closing moments of games. One reason Russ got so angry after the 1969 Finals was because in his experience Wilt never quit. Wilt came out of Game 7 in 1969 because he couldn't put weight on his leg and didn't want to hurt the team. When the pain relented a couple of minutes late, Wilt became furious that van Breda Koff refused to put him back in.

Russ didn't realize it but it was the coach's decision, not Wilt's, to keep him on the sideline at the end of that game, often described as the worst coaching decision ever.




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Re: Clearing out Bill Russell clutter

Post by RosalieTCeltics on Sun Jan 06, 2013 11:50 am

It was, I was in Phillie for that game and I would swear to God that Wilt did NOT want to go back into that game. We sat there as the Celtics won that game scratching our heads as to why Wilt wasn't in the game.??? will always remain about that.

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