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Was Bill Russell a good basketball player?

Bill Russell is the most trophy-winning NBA player in history, winning as many as 11 championship rings in just 13 years of his career in the strongest basketball league. Although he was quite a solid striker, basketball history remembers him much more for his great defense, especially on Wilt Chamberlain, and for the incredible number of rebounds he recorded.

Was Bill Russell a good basketball player? Only in three NBA seasons did he average less than 20 rebounds per game (never in the playoffs), and in one season he managed to have an incredible 24.7 rebounds per game. However, he has shown many times that he was not only a great rebounder, but a spectacular defender. 

Bill Russell’s tenacious moves were seen throughout career, perhaps best showing how far ahead of Bill Russell was the time in which he played, especially in terms of skill. At the center position, Russell was electric in both sides of the ball and deserved all the respect he received in his NBA career.

Early Career

During his college career, Bill Russell played for the University of San Francisco, which led to two championship titles in 1955 and 1956. And in that second championship year, he managed to make a move that even today, more than 60 years later, seems unreal.

Russell caught one ball under his basket, and then “from coast to coast” rushed towards the opponent’s basket, leading the ball as a playmaker, although he played in the center position and during that time was extremely tall (208 centimeters), and then reflected almost from the free throw line and skipping the opponent as a hurdle managed to score by passing. Russell’s move at the time is very reminiscent of one of the most famous dunks of all time by Vince Carter through Frederick Weis, and apart from the height of the opponent, the only difference is that Bill put the ball in the basket, while Carter knocked.

Joining the Boston Celtics

The way Russell guided the ball in this action, the way he moved, as well as the jumpiness and dexterity he showed at the end of the action, made many basketball fans claim after watching this video that the Celtics legend would still be one of the most dominant basketball players in the NBA league. Although we will of course never know the answer to these claims, what remains as a fact is that Bill was far ahead of his time, playing a perfect defense at a time when the defense was not so much appreciated, but also showing in attack very often technique and dexterity. Time was not a feature for many tall players.

William Felton Russell showed that you can dominate an NBA game without scoring points. With an arm span of 2.25, he blocked, jumped, perfectly “opened the counter”, was everywhere and brought complete confusion to the opponent’s camp. In one season, he recorded 28 rebounds per game. During his career, he averaged 22.2 rebounds per game, and one record he still holds today with the 51st caught ball in 48 minutes of basketball. Yes, Bill Russell recorded 51 rebounds in one NBA game.

Russell’s defensive skills and duels with Wilt Chamberlain were fantastic to watch, but they will never be marked solely by statistics, but almost as legends. Playing behind pioneers such as Earl Lloyd, Chuck Cooper and Ray Felix, Bill Russell would become one of the first players to reach superstar status in professional basketball.

Bill Russell’s 11 NBA Championship Titles

“His” Boston Celtics from the late fifties and sixties are the most dominant team in American professional sports if we apply simple mathematics. It would be superfluous to list his achievements because we would definitely miss someone, and it would take a long time, so here are the most important ones.

In history, he immediately won the NBA title after the NCAA title. Of the 13 NBA seasons he played, he was not a champion in only two. In 1967, Red Auerbach proclaimed him a coach-player, making him the first black coach in the history of the NBA. He was the league’s MVP five times.The formula was so simple it was boring. Russell under the basket, Cousy organizes the attack, those who finish it take turns as on the tape, and the season ends with Red lighting the tompus and laughing in the face of the opponent. 

Did Bill Russell join the Harlem Globetrotters?

Red Auerbach was already rubbing his hands imagining Russell catching the ball and passing it to the magician Bob Cousy, and the opponent headlessly chasing after them not knowing how to oppose them. That vision shows how far ahead the legendary team was. But, since the NBA draft was “geographical”, it was impossible to bring Bill Russell from San Francisco to Boston. Not for Auerbach. But instead of the draft, Russell almost went to the Harlem Globetrotters. He refused their offer because he thought that the owner Abe Saperstein saw him as “stupid” and humiliated him during the conversation. In the meantime, he also won the Olympic gold in Melbourne in 1956. He was also an excellent high jumper and 400-meter runner, but he was determined to play basketball. Luckily, Auerbach was determined to get him in the draft at any cost.

Without thinking, he gave up Ed Macauley and Cliff Hagan, two highly regarded basketball players, and sent them to St. Louis, which drafted Russell from elsewhere, leaving the experts completely stunned. Through another trade, the Celtics managed to reach his great friend from college, Casey Jones, while they chose Tom Heinsohn with their pick. In one night, Boston got three players who will enter the “Hall of Fame,” and three people, who will win NBA rings as players and coaches.