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NBA

How incredible were Bill Russell’s career stats and achievements?

As we say ‘goodbye’ to one of the greatest player’s in NBA history, we thought it would be a good idea to take a look back at the body of work produced by the legendary Bill Russell.

Update:
(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 14, 2011, US President Barack Obama awards the 2010 Medal of Freedom to NBA basketball hall of famer and human rights advocate Bill Russell during a ceremony at the White House in Washington, DC. - NBA great Bill Russell, the cornerstone of a Boston Celtics dynasty that won 11 titles and a powerful voice for social justice, has died at the age of 88, a statement posted on social media said July 31, 2022. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP)
JIM WATSONAFP

As the saying goes, ‘Legends never die’ and in the case of the great Bill Russell not only will his tale live on, but so will his numbers and they’re definitely a whole lot of them.

There was nobody like Bill Russell

Respected and cherished both on and off the court, Bill Russell’s incredible career with the Boston Celtics served to establish him not just as one of the most revered players in NBA history, but also one of the most outrageously prolific. To be frank, when looking back over his career some of Russell’s sats weren’t just unparalleled, they bordering on outrightly disrespectful to fellow players. When the curtain came down on his career, he walked away with an average of 15.1 points, 22.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game, and totals of 14,522 points, 21,620 rebounds and 4,100 assists. Yet, as impressive as those raw numbers are, they really only tell half the story. That’s why we’re going to tell the other half, with a look at what it means to be a legend.

Who has the most NBA championships ever? Bill Russell...duh

Eleven, that’s how many NBA championships Russell collected in his NBA career and yes that’s a record that stands to this day. That also included an unbelievable eight straight titles from 1959-1966. What’s even more ridiculous is that Russell played 13 seasons in total, which means he got himself a ring in all but two of his seasons in the league. We should also mention that he actually served as a player/coach for the final two championships of his career in 1968 and 1969. Stop for a moment and try to imagine a player in today’s modern game, coaching his own team to two titles. Never going to happen.

What about Bill Russell’s MVPs

During his 13 seasons with the Celtics, Russell was named the NBA’s MVP on five separate occasions (1958, 1961–1963, 1965). That puts him at second on the list behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who won the award six times. His ‘Airness,’ Michael Jordan sits on five as well which gives you an indication of the kind of player one has to be to scale such heights. After Russell and Jordan, we’ve got Wilt Chamberlain and LeBron James with four a piece.

All-Star Games were what Bill Russell did

By now you can probably guess where this is going. In his 13 seasons in the NBA, Russell was an All-Star selection on 12 occasions. If it wasn’t obvious, the only season that Russell didn’t go to the All-Star game was his rookie year. After that, he was first on the list. Interestingly, although he missed one All-Star game, he was selected to play in the league’s annual midseason exhibition every single year. As for the All-Star games themselves, Russell started in seven of the 12 and scored a cumulative 120 points, to go with 139 rebounds and 39 assists. In the All-Star game of 1963, Russell was named MVP after a performance that saw him post 19 points, 24 rebounds and five assists.

Bill Russell owned the board

When it comes to rebounds, there are 21,620 of them on Russell’s CV that do plenty of talking about how good he was. Dominant to say the least, Russell sits at second on the NBA’s list of most rebounds ever. Only Wilt Chamberlain with his staggering 23,924 boards, grabbed more in his career. For good measure, Russell with his 22.5 rebounds per game also ranks second behind Chamberlain who averaged 22.5 per game. That of course, takes us to his rebounding titles of which he had four (1958, 1959, 1964, 1965). In the name of perspective, Russell is just one of three players, along with Kevin Garnett and Andre Drummond, to have clinched four rebounding titles. The only other players to do better are Chamberlain (11), Dennis Rodman (seven), Moses Malone (six) and Dwight Howard (five).

Bill Russell’s Lifetime of Achievement

In 2019, the NBA handed its inaugural NBA Lifetime Achievement Award and there was of course no better recipient than Bill Russell. Given by the league, to a player who exemplifies extraordinary success both on and off the court in the NBA, Russell has since been followed by other greats such as Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.

The Bill Russell Trophy

In yet another deserved act of immortalization, the trophy handed to the MVP of the NBA Finals now carries the name of Bill Russell. While Russell himself never actually won the award, with its introduction only coming in 1969 - his final year in the league - it is perhaps poetic justice that the trophy will bear his name forever more.

A core member of the NBA Anniversary Teams: Bill Russell

Across its history, the NBA has paid homage to the greats of the game by announcing anniversary teams on four different occasions. The 25th anniversary team was famously selected in 1971, with the 35th anniversary team following in 1980. Then there was the 50th of 1996 and the highly celebrated 75th just a short while ago in 2021. As should be, Russell was named to all four of those teams. Joined only by the likes of other greats, such as Bob Cousy, George Mikan, and Bob Pettit.

With all of those achievements in mind, it’s easy to forget that at the center of it all was a man who was as much known for his kindness and good nature as he was his astonishing prowess on the court. The first player ever, to win an Olympic Gold Medal, NBA Championship and a college title, he was also the first African-American to coach a major professional sports team when he took the role with the Celtics back in 1966. Today, Russell’s legendary No. 6 hangs retired in the rafters of the Celtics home as it does in the University of San Francisco where he first came to the fore. Bill Russell may be gone, but he’ll never be forgotten. His No. 6 is retired by the Celtics and by the University of San Francisco, where he played college ball.

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