- 5/5/09 Noon at Borders Books at Broadway. New York, NY
- 5/7/09 7:00 PM at Willow Books at Great Road. Acton, MA.
- 5/8/09 12:30 PM at Barnes & Noble at Prudential Center. Boston, MA. William
Felton Russell (born February 12, 1934) is a retired American professional basketball player who played center for the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association (NBA). A five-time winner of the NBA Most Valuable Player Award and a twelve-time All-Star, the 6 ft 10 in (2.08 m) Russell was the centerpiece of the Celtics dynasty that won eleven NBA Championships during Russell’s thirteen-year career. Along with Henri Richard of the National Hockey League’s Montreal Canadiens, Russell holds the record for the most championships won by an athlete in a North American sports league. Before his professional career, Russell led the University of San Francisco to two consecutive National Collegiate Athletic Association championships (1955, 1956). He also won a gold medal at the 1956 Summer Olympics as captain of the U.S. national basketball team.
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He led the NBA in rebounds four times and tallied 21,620 total rebounds in his career. He is one of just two NBA players (the other being prominent rival Wilt Chamberlain) to have grabbed more than fifty rebounds in a game. Though never the focal point of the Celtics’ offense, Russell also scored 14,522 career points and provided effective passing. Russell is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. He was selected into NBA 25th Anniversary Team in 1971, into NBA 35th Anniversary Team in 1980 and named as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996, one of only four players that selected into all three teams. In 2007, he was enshrined in the FIBA Hall of Fame. In 2009, the NBA announced that the NBA Finals MVP trophy would be named the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award in honor of Russell.
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Bill Russell was born to Charles and Katie Russell in West Monroe, Louisiana. West Monroe was strictly segregated, and the Russells often struggled with racism. Once, Russell’s father was refused service at a gasoline station until the staff had taken care of all the white customers. When his father attempted to leave and find a different station, the attendant stuck a shotgun in his face, threatening to kill him unless he stayed and waited his turn. At another time, Russell’s mother was walking outside in a fancy dress when a policeman accosted her. He told her to go home and remove the dress, which he described as “white woman’s clothing”. Because large numbers of blacks were moving to Oakland, California during WWII to look for work there, Russell’s father moved the family out of Louisiana when Russell was eight years old and settled them in Oakland. While there the family fell into poverty, and Russell spent his childhood living in a series of project homes. In his early years, Russell struggled to develop his skills as a basketball player. In his early years, Russell struggled to develop his skills as a basketball player. Although Russell was a good runner and jumper and had extremely large hands, he simply did not understand the game and was cut from the team in junior high school. As a sophomore at McClymonds High School, Russell was almost cut again. However, coach George Powles saw Russell’s raw athletic potential and encouraged him to work on his fundamentals. Russell, who was used to racist abuse, was delighted by the warm words of his white coach.
He was one of five, along with John Wooden, Oscar Robertson, Dean Smith and Dr. James Naismith, selected to represent the inaugural class. On May 20 2007, Russell was awarded an honorary doctorate by Suffolk University, where he served as its commencement speaker, and Russell received an honorary degree from Harvard University on June 7 2007.
Russell was married to his college sweetheart Rose Swisher from 1956 to 1973. They had three children, namely daughter Karen Russell, the television pundit and lawyer, and sons William Jr. and Jacob. However, the couple grew emotionally distant and got divorced. In 1977, he married Dorothy Anstett, the former “Miss USA” of 1968, but they divorced in 1980. In 1996, Russell married his third wife Marilyn Nault, and their marriage lasted until her death in January 2009. His older brother is the noted playwright Charlie L. Russell. Michael Menna, Bill’s best friend, helped him get through the ‘shaky’ times.