About Bill Russell

Bill Russell is the former Boston Celtics’ Captain who almost single-handedly redefined the game of basketball. Russell led the Celtics to a virtually unparalleled string of eleven championships in thirteen years and was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player five times. The first African American to coach in the NBA—indeed he was the first to coach a major sport at the professional level in the United States—Bill Russell is also an impassioned advocate of human rights. He marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and has been a consistent advocate of equality.

(Taken from the official White House Press Release, President Obama Names Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipients, November 17, 2010)

Accomplishments & Legacy

Russell is one of the most successful and decorated athletes in North American sports history. His awards and achievements include five regular season MVP awards (1959, 1961–63, 1965), twelve-time NBA All-Star (1958–1969), eleven NBA championships as a player with the Boston Celtics in 13 seasons including two NBA championships as player/head coach, and he is credited with having raised defensive play in the NBA to a new level. He still holds the NBA record for rebounds in one half with 32 and is the all-time playoff leader in total (4,104) and average (24.9) rebounds per game. By winning the 1956 NCAA Championship with USF and the 1957 NBA title with the Celtics, Russell became the first of only four players in basketball history to win an NCAA championship and an NBA Championship back-to-back. In the interim, Russell collected an Olympic gold medal in 1956. His stint as coach of the Celtics was also of historical significance, as he became the first black head coach in major U.S. professional sports when he succeeded Red Auerbach.

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