James Haidak | Boston Celtics Legends | Bill Russell
James Haidak on Boston Celtics Legend Bill Russell
When the Boston Celtics set their sights on William “Bill” Felton Russell during the 1956 NBA draft, they knew their chances of signing him were slim because the Celtics were at the bottom of the draft order, shares James Haidak. But coach Red Auerbach knew that Russell was the missing piece the team needed and so he did all he could to get him, which would eventually mean trading Celtics center Ed Macauley and forward Cliff Hagan for Russell (who was originally drafted by the St. Louis Hawks). This trade would later become known as “one of the most important trades in the history of North American sports.”
The decision to trade two players for Russell proved to be auspicious because Russell would later lead the Celtics to a whopping 11 NBA championship titles.
The Celtic depended on Russell not for his points per game or shooting average per season but for his strong blocking and defense, as well as his rebounds. With a wingspan of 2.24 meters, his shot-blocking and defensive abilities were exactly what the team needed to improve their play. His rebounds were just as legendary, shares James Haidak. In fact, he still holds the second highest spot in NBA history for total rebounds and rebounds per game.
Russell dominated the game, both as an amateur and professional at a time when racial discrimination was still pervasive. As a matter of fact, whenever he and his other black teammates from the University of San Francisco played, they would receive racial slurs and jeers from the crowds. There was even one instance where he and his black teammates were refused rooms at a hotel in Oklahoma when they traveled into town for the 1954 All-College Tournament. In solidarity, the entire USF team refused their rooms and instead camped out in a college dorm.
Quick facts: 11 NBA championships (1957, 1959 to 1966, 1968, and 1969); 5 NBA MVP titles, and 12x All-Star. 15.1 ppg, 22.5 rpg, and 4.3 apg.)
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