Marquist Parker Sports Editor
On April 18, 1966 NBA hall of famer Bill Russell was named the first African American coach in NBA history. Bill Russell was the cornerstone of the Boston Celtics’ dynasty of the 1960s, an uncanny shot blocker who revolutionized NBA defensive concepts. A five-time NBA Most Valuable Player and a 12-time All-Star, the angular center amassed 21,620 career rebounds, an average of 22.5 per game and led the league in rebounding four times. He had 51 boards in one game, 49 in two others and a dozen consecutive seasons of 1,000 or more rebounds.
His many individual accolades were well deserved, but they were only products of Russell’s philosophy of team play. His greatest accomplishment was bringing the storied Celtics 11 championships in his 13 seasons. Until the ascent of Michael Jordan in the 1980s, Russell was acclaimed by many as the greatest player in the history of the NBA. Russell’s dominant play around the paint changed the dynamic of the NBA for 13 seasons. He was the missing piece that the Celtics—and every other team in the league, for that matter —were missing. Russell would go on to average 15.1 PPG, 22.5 RPG and 4.3 APG during his 13-year career. He grabbed 40 rebounds in two separate NBA finals games and is one of only two players to grab more than 50 rebounds in a single NBA game (51 rebounds on Feb. 6, 1960 vs. Syracuse).
Russell is revered as one of the greatest civil rights advocates that American sports, and the country as a whole, has ever seen. Proof of such arrived in February, when Russell’s push for civil rights and his knack for mentoring were acknowledged at the highest of levels. President Barack Obama awarded Russell with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the highest honor an American civilian can receive.
In his career Russell amassed many accomplishments: these include, five-time NBA MVP, eleven-time NBA champion, having his No. 6 retired by Celtics, named to NBA’s 25th, 35th and 50th anniversary teams, twelve-time NBA All-Star, named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year in 1968, inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on April 28, 1975, and is a member of the gold-medal winning US Olympic team in 1956.