131 Bill Russell Facts: The Basketball Coach You Need To Know About

Oluniyi Akande
Oct 05, 2023 By Oluniyi Akande
Originally Published on Dec 19, 2021
Bill Russell facts will tell you more about the basketball career of this highly valuable player.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 8.8 Min

William Felton Russell was an American professional basketball player who became known as one of the sport's greatest idols after becoming the first exceptional defensive center in NBA history.

Bill Russell was the heart of the Celtics dynasty, which earned 11 NBA championship titles during his 13-year professional life with the Boston Celtics. On February 12, 1934, Bill Russell was born in West Monroe, Louisiana, to Charles and Katie Russell. Like nearly other Southern counties and cities at the time, Monroe was racially divided, and the Russells' faced racism on a regular basis.

When Russell turned eight years old, Russell's father relocated the family from Louisiana to Oakland, California. Russell spent his youth in various public housing complexes as they slipped into dire poverty there. Russell was closer to his mother, Katie, than he was to his father, and so when his mother passed away in 1946 when Russell was just 12 years old, it was a big emotional shock to him. Russell has indicated that his father was his boyhood hero, accompanied by George Mikan of the Minneapolis Lakers, whom he encountered in high school.

Russell's nicknames include The Secretary of Defense and Mr. 11 rings. Bill Russell is one of four players to win an NCAA championship and an NBA championship in back-to-back years.

After reading about the basketball career of this valuable player with the Boston Celtics, also check out Billy Collins facts and Bill O'Reilly facts.

Fun Facts About Bill Russell

With 40 rebounds in a game, Bill Russell owns the NBA finals record for maximum rebounds in a match. Russell was the very first NBA team player to consistently score more than 20 rebounds per game for an entire season, which he accomplished during his rookie season.

When he was appointed as a player-coach in 1966, he became the NBA's first black head coach. In his three years as a player-coach, he won two titles. Bill Russell, along with Henry Bibby, Magic Johnson, and Billy Thompson, is one of only four players to conquer an NCAA title and an NBA championship in consecutive years.

Bill Russell, alongside Henri Richard of the National Hockey League, is tied for the most titles won by a player in a North American professional league. Russell captained the gold-medal winning United States national basketball team in the 1956 Summer Olympics. He guided the San Francisco Dons to two consecutive NCAA titles in 1955 and 1956. He stands 82 in (208.2 cm) tall and has a wingspan of 88 in (223.5). His shot-blocking and man-to-man defense were key factors in the Celtics' dominance of the NBA throughout his career.

Russell was also well-known for his rebounding talents. He dominated the NBA in rebounding four times, played a dozen seasons with 1,000 or even more rebounds, and is still second all-time in overall rebounds as well as rebounds for every game. He is one of two NBA players to record higher than 50 rebounds, the second being famed rival Wilt Chamberlain.

One of the most prominent NBA players of all time, Bill Russell, got married for the fourth time. Russell married Rose Swisher, his childhood love, from 1956-1973. He wedded Dorothy Anstett, Miss USA, in 1968, in 1977, but the couple separated in 1980. Russell remarried Marilyn Nault, his third wife, in 1996, and they were married until her demise in January 2009. Russell is now married to Jeannine Russell and lives on Mercer Island, Washington.

Facts About Bill Russell's Achievements

1956 was one of Russell's most exciting years. Russell received a bachelor's degree, entered the exclusive group of Olympic gold medallists, married his sweetheart, and struck a deal with the National Basketball Association in that one year (NBA).

Russell was selected for the Olympic team and went on to win a gold medal in the Melbourne Games. Russell, a second-round choice in the 1956 NBA draught, was traded to the Boston Celtics under unique circumstances.

Russell was the best defensive player in NBA history throughout his illustrious career. He was a real team player who was also a leviathan jumper and even a great rebounder. Years leading up to Russell, it was unthinkable in the NBA for a player to situate himself only for the aim of blocking opposing scorers while ignoring the possibility of scoring a basket. Russell was a poor ball-handler, and Auerbach told him not to shoot and control the ball. Nonetheless, the 'Bill Russell Era' refers to the years corresponding with Russell's playing career.

According to critics, Russell's inclusion on the team was a significant influence in the Celtics winning 11 NBA titles between 1957-1969. Russell began his career with the Boston Celtics, earning $19,500 and wearing No. 6 on his jersey. Russell was a member of the NBA All-Star team in 1957-59. In 1957, 1959-66, 1968, and 1969, his club won the NBA title. The Celtics never had won a title before Russell's first season.

Throughout his 13 year tenure, they only lost two titles. Russell was the first African American to lead an NBA club when Auerbach retired. He played and coached until 1969 when he retired with 11 NBA titles as a player and two as a coach. Between 1973-1977, Bill Russell was the Seattle Super Sonics' general manager and coach. He started working as a broadcast commentator for numerous television channels throughout the '70s and '80s.

He coached the Sacramento Kings in 1987-88 and served as the Kings' head of basketball operations until 1989. Russell was the first African American incorporated into the NBA Hall of Fame in 1974, and the whole community celebrated with him.

William Felton Russell retired from basketball after the 1969 season.

Facts About Bill Russell's Education

Russell was an uncomfortable, mediocre center for McClymonds' basketball team until his stature gained him a scholarship to the University of San Francisco, wherein he flourished.

Russell's single scholarship chance came from the University of San Francisco, and he quickly made an impression on the Hilltop, building a legacy of brilliance. The lanky Russell was a standout on USF's freshman basketball team, earning 461 points in 23 games and averaging a record 20 points every game.

Bill Russell went to McClymonds High School in Oakland, California. From 1953-1956, he attended the University of San Francisco. As 1956 came to a close, Russell completed his studies and received his college diploma. Russell received a Bachelor of Arts degree, entered the exclusive club of Olympic gold medallists, married his sweetheart, and entered into a contract with the National Basketball Association, all in a single year.

Russell struggled to improve his talents as a basketball athlete in his formative days. Russell was indeed a superb runner and jumper with big hands, but he didn't grasp the sport and was removed from the team in junior high. Russell was somewhat cut again as a student at McClymonds High School in Oakland. On the other hand, Coach George Powles saw Russell's innate physical talent and urged him to improve his basics.

His coach's friendly comments reassured Russell, which contrasted with his past unpleasant experiences with white authority figures. He put in the effort and took advantage of a growth spurt to develop into a competent basketball player. Russell was overlooked by college recruiters and had no offers until University of San Francisco recruiter Hal DeJulio saw him playing in a high school basketball game.

Russell's poor shooting and 'atrocious fundamentals' did not please DeJulio, but he saw that the young center had an exceptional knack for the particular game, particularly in the clutch. Russell immediately embraced DeJulio's proposal of a scholarship. According to sports journalist John Taylor, Russell's realization that basketball was his opportunity to overcome poverty with racism was a turning point in his life. Russell vowed to seek the best out of the situation as a result.

Facts About Bill Russell's Coaching Career

Bill Russell is regarded as a hero for he clearly influenced and transformed the game of basketball by bringing a level of commitment to defense to the game that no one else had ever achieved before. Bill Russell was a famous player who battled racism as a civil rights leader off the field.

Russell battled prejudice and inequity for himself and his colleagues during his career. Russell chose to speak out about injustices and utilized his position in the league to tear down boundaries. He reinvented basketball and the position of the black athlete, while the civil rights movement grew in parallel with his success.

Bill Russell first coached the Boston Celtics in 1966 and guided them until 1987. Bill Russell has 11 championship rings to his credit. Having said that, he furthermore won two as a player-coach. All 11 NBA titles were earned throughout 13 NBA seasons. Russell was prepared to become the first black coach in NBA history ten seasons following his playing career as a player-coach, and that was relatively typical practice at the time.

The news initially broke after 'Game 1' of the 1966 NBA Finals, at which point Hall of Famer Red Auerbach publicly stated that Russell will indeed succeed him as head coach at the end of the series. Russell wasn't Auerbach's first, second, or third pick as a successor, despite this being a watershed event. Russell was appointed after three of Auerbach's erstwhile players, Frank Ramsey, Bob Cousy, and Tom Heihnson, had various misgivings about taking the role.

Russell performed well right from the start. He guided the Celtics to a 60-21 record in his debut season as player-coach. On the other hand, Russell went on to have a 102-62 regular season record while guiding Boston to a chain of NBA championships in 1968 and 1969. Russell eventually retired from the game after beating the Lakers in seven games in the 1969 finals, both as a player and as a coach, but he had cemented his place by then.

The first black coach in NBA history had won two titles in three years, even while serving as his team's defensive bedrock, paving the way for many to follow the lead. The NBA has had almost 70 black head coaches visit the sidelines for at least one game in the 55 years since Russell initially began player-coach duties with the Celtics.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created many interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for '131 Bill Russell Facts: The Basketball Coach You Need To Know About,' then why not take a look at Billy Joel facts or Billy Sunday facts?

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Written by Oluniyi Akande

Doctorate specializing in Veterinary Medicine

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Oluniyi AkandeDoctorate specializing in Veterinary Medicine

With an accomplished background as a Veterinarian, SEO content writer, and public speaker, Oluniyi brings a wealth of skills and experience to his work. Holding a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Ibadan, he provides exceptional consulting services to pet owners, animal farms, and agricultural establishments. Oluniyi's impressive writing career spans over five years, during which he has produced over 5000 high-quality short- and long-form pieces of content. His versatility shines through as he tackles a diverse array of topics, including pets, real estate, sports, games, technology, landscaping, healthcare, cosmetics, personal loans, debt management, construction, and agriculture.

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