William Felton “Bill” Russell (February 12, 1934-July 31, 2022) is arguably the greatest NBA player of all-time, having won two NCAA championships, a gold medal in the 1956 Olympics as captain of the U.S. National Basketball Team, and a record 11 National Basketball Associations titles with the Boston Celtics. (He shares the record for most championships by a professional player (11) with Henri Richard of the Montreal Canadiens.) Drafted by the St. Louis Hawks in 1956, Russell was highly coveted by Celtics coach Red Auerbach, who agreed to trade Ed McCauley and, reluctantly, Cliff Hagan to the Hawks for the rights to Russell on draft day. This trade remains one of the most important in NBA history. Bill made an immediate impact on the high-scoring Boston team, as well as the NBA, with a more defensive minded game and absolute dominance in the paint. His unorthodox manner of defending and man-to-man effectiveness, helped guide the Celts to their first NBA Finals appearance in franchise history, capturing the crown over the favored St. Louis Hawks. Russell was the key component on the court that led Boston to 11 titles in his 13-year career.
Playing alongside fellow Hall of Famers Bob Cousy, Tom Heinsohn, Sam Jones, K.C. Jones and John Havlicek, the Celtics became the most feared team in the league. His matchups with other centers were legendary, but none more so than that with Wilt Chamberlain, who played ferociously against one another. Bill won five NBA Most Valuable Player Awards, was a five-time NBA Rebound Champion, was a 12-time NBA All-Star selection and was a three-time NBA All-NBA First Team player (though he was likely slighted on many occasions being named as an All-NBA Second Team player eight times). Bill Russell retired with 14,522 points, 21,620 total rebounds and 4,100 assists. He was also a prolific shot blocker, though the statistics for blocking shots was not kept until the 1973-74 season. Bill Russell was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975. Russell was player/coach during his final three seasons with the Celtics, winning two championships, and coached for the Seattle Supersonics and the Sacramento Kings for five more seasons. He posted a 341-290 record in 631 games. In 1996, he was named to the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History list. In 2011, Russell received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama for his accomplishments during the Civil Right Movement both on and off the court.