Bill Russell was the greatest winner in U.S. team sports history

by Marc Narducci | Aug 5, 2022
Bill Russell was the greatest winner in U.S. team sports history

Bill Russell never accumulated the most impressive scoring statistics, although his rebounding stats were off the charts.

What he did better than any athlete of our time was win. The sports world lost the best winner of all time when Russell passed away on Sunday at the age of 88.

Russell played 13 NBA seasons, all with the Boston Celtics. He helped lead Boston to 11 NBA championships in 13 seasons. 

His teams were 27-2 in playoff series. Granted, for most of his career, a team only had to win two playoff series to win a championship, but 27-2 is a towering statistic.

Russell won more championships than all but one NBA franchise (not counting Boston). Only the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers won more than Russell with 17.

Included during the Celtics run with Russell were eight consecutive NBA championships from 1958-1959 through 1965-1966.

There are many impressive stats with Russell, but the one that stands out the most is that he was 10-0 in the Game 7’s.

That included his final game when the Celtics beat the host Los Angeles Lakers, 108-106 in Game 7 of the NBA championship.

In that game, Russell played all 48 minutes and had six points, six assists and 21 rebounds. This came while playing against Wilt Chamberlain, who had 18 points and 27 rebounds.

During that seven-game series, Russell averaged 48 minutes, an outstanding display of endurance, especially at the age of 35. 

He averaged 9.1 points, 5.1 assists and 21.1 rebounds. Blocked shots weren’t an official NBA stat when he played, but one wonders how many Russell, who was considered one of the best defensive players of all time, would have accumulated.

Many felt Russell, who was a player coach later in his career, could have continued playing, but he went out on top.

The only two times he didn’t win an NBA championship were in 1958 when Boston lost to the St. Louis Hawks in six games in the NBA finals and 1967 when Boston lost in five games to the 76ersin the Eastern Division finals. 

That Sixers team with Hall of Famers Chamberlain, Hal Greer, Chet Walker and sixth man Billy Cunningham, has been considered among the best in NBA history.

For his career, Russell was a five-time MVP and a 12-time All-Star. The NBA didn’t begin naming All-Defensive teams until Russell’s final season 1968-69, but he made the initial first team.

For his career, the 6-foot-10 Russell averaged 15.1 points, 4.3 assists and 22.5 rebounds. In 165 playoff games, he averaged 16.2 points and 24.9 rebounds.

Russell was a big winner long before entering the NBA. He helped the University of San Francisco win back-to-back NCAA titles in 1955 and 1956, earning 56 consecutive wins along the way.

Russell was also a part of the 1956 U.S. Olympic gold medal-winning team. The USA went 8-0, with the closest game an 85-55 triumph over the Soviet Union, the same team USA beat in the finals, 89-55.

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Russell was a major advocate for civil rights, fighting against the racism he faced during his career. In 2011 President Obama awarded Russell the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Russell was a giant on and off the court and he set the standard for winning that will be difficult for anybody to even come close to reaching.


Photo Courtesy of Celtic Jayson Tatum Twitter


Author: Marc Narducci

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