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"Defense is a science, not a helter-skelter thing you just luck into. Every move has six or seven years of work behind it."

— Bill Russell

Basketball, 1962
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Russell was given this ball after his 10,000th rebound. He amassed 21,620 rebounds before retiring from play in 1969.

— Gift of William F. Russell


Bill Russell
Basketball Strategist and First African American NBA Coach

Bill Russell re-imagined basketball, bringing an exciting new level of play to the game. His analytical defensive style consisted of more than rebounding: he blocked shots and altered the plays of his opponents. During his playing career as center for the Boston Celtics, the team won 11 NBA championships. Russell earned five MVPs, played in 12 All-Star games, and led the NBA in rebounds five times. Russell's innovative defensive strategies remain the key to championship basketball.

In 1967, when Russell began coaching the Boston Celtics, he became the first African American to coach a major professional sports team.

In 1980, the Professional Basketball Writers Association of America voted him "Greatest Player in the History of the NBA." Many fans still agree.

Name: William Felton Russell
Born: Monroe, Louisiana, 1934–
  • First African American coach of any major professional sport
  • Gold Medalist, basketball, Melbourne Olympics, 1956
  • 11-time NBA Champion, 5-time NBA rebound leader, and MVP
  • Averaged 15.1 points and 22.5 rebounds per game
  • 21,620 total career rebounds
  • Lifetime civil rights activist
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