Bill Russell

Early Life

William Felton Russell was born on February 12, 1934 in Monroe, Louisiana. When he was just 10 his father moved the family across the nation to Oakland, California in an attempt to escape the racially charged south. Young Bill dove into his studies after his mother died, who was a big advocate of hard work in school. He also began to play basketball around this time, and he was a star immediately. He was athletically awkward at first but he finally earned a starting spot on his high school team when he was a senior. After high school the only school that offered him a scholarship was the University of San Francisco. He led the University of San Francisco to back to back NCAA titles in 1955 and 1956. He also led the US olympic team to a gold medal in the 1956 olympics.

Professional Career

When Russell entered the league he said that blacks were cheated on an individual level so he put all of his focus on the team and making the team win. He was drafted by the boston Celtics in 1956 after Red Auerbach got the rights to draft him. Russell was exactly what the Celtics needed to propel themselves to champions. He was a big man down low that played with an unorthodox style for that time. He played very aggressive defense and left his feet often to block shots, something no one did back then. He also had a very nice touch around the rim and was an excellent rebounder. He led his Boston Celtics to 11 championships in 13 years that he played in the league, making him the winningest player in history.

Civil Right Activist

When Bill Russell was drafted into the league he was one of 15 black players, when he retired from the league the majority of the players were black and he had a lot to do with that. When he was drafted into the league he wasn't accepted by the Boston fans. Boston was one of the most racially segregated cities in the nation and the fans were ruthless. Russell hated the segregation in sports which was ironic because Boston was the most segregated city, sports wise, that there was. Russell didn't give the fans anything he was only there to play and refused to sign autographs. He never hid his opinion of these fans and was reluctant to let boston retire his number or accept his inauguration into the national basketball hall of fame. Russell was an advocate to the civil rights movement. One well known instance was when he boycotted a game because he wasn't allowed to eat in a certain diner. He also spoke out about the violence after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Russell did a lot to redefine not just the game of basketball but also the nation as a whole and for this President Obama awarded him The Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civil honor in the country in 2010.