Bill Russell, or “Russ,” as they call him, was acquired through a trade that netted the Celtics the 2nd pick in the 1956 NBA draft. Red Auerbach knew that Russell was the missing piece to a Celtics championship, and gave up quite a bit to get Russell; six-time all-star Ed Macauley and rookie Cliff Hagan. Though the Celtics had to break the bank to acquire Russell, Auerbach knew they needed his rebounding and shot-blocking to become a championship-caliber team.
In thirteen seasons with the Celtics, Russell amassed career averages of 15.1 points, 22.5 rebounds, and 4.3 assists. During those thirteen seasons, Russell was named the NBA’s MVP five times, and to the all-star team twelve times.
While he possesses an incredible history of individual accolades, Bill Russell was known more for his team play. Maybe nobody in the history of team sports has ever been as consistent a winner as Bill Russell. His record of 11 NBA championships is likely a record that will never be broken.
Long, agile, and intelligent, Russell is considered to be the best defensive player of all time. He was a shot-blocking mastermind who used shot blocks as a weapon to start his team going the other way for a fast break. Most of Russell’s contemporaries feel Russell would still be the all-time leader in shot blocks per game had blocks been kept as a statistic when Russell played.
In 1980, Russell was voted Greatest Player in the History of the NBA by the Professional Writer’s Association of America, and was later named one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players. He will forever be remembered as the ultimate winner, someone willing to sacrifice his individual stats for the sake of his team. He is considered by many to be the greatest Celtic ever to play, and by some to be the best basketball player in history.