Bill Russell dies at 88: A look back at Celtics legend’s illustrious NBA career

Bill Russell established himself as a legend on and off the basketball court. During his illustrious career with the Boston Celtics, Russell posted some unprecedented and at times downright unbelievable statistics that cemented his status as one of the most respected — and decorated — players in basketball. Helped secure the location. He finished his career with averages of 15.1 points, 22.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game, and totaled 14,522 points, 21,620 rebounds and 4,100 assists.

While impressive, raw numbers don’t quite do justice when it comes to painting the full picture of Russell, so here’s a look at some of the most impressive stats stemming from his playing days with the Celtics.

11 NBA Championships: Russell won an NBA-record 11 championships during his career, including eight consecutive titles from 1959-1966. What makes this feat even more impressive is that he only played 13 total seasons, which means he won championships in all but two of his seasons in the league. In addition, he served as the Celtics’ head coach to their last two titles in 1968 and 1969. Coaching a player to win two titles while playing is almost unheard of in today’s NBA, but Russell did it. At this point, it’s hard to imagine another player matching Russell’s 11 rings. Sam Jones, Russell’s teammate with the Celtics, is the only other player in league history to reach double figures in titles.

Five MVP awards: During his 13 seasons with the Celtics, Russell was named the NBA’s MVP on five separate occasions (1958, 1961–1963, 1965). This is second only to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who has won the award six times. With five MVP awards, Russell is also tied with Michael Jordan – the only other player to win the award five times. Wilt Chamberlain and LeBron James have both won the award four times.

12 All-Star selections: Russell was named an All-Star in 12 of his 13 seasons with the Celtics. The only season he didn’t miss was his rookie year. Thereafter, he was selected to play in the league’s annual midseason exhibition each year. He started seven of 12 games and totaled 120 points, 139 rebounds and 39 assists in those performances. He was named MVP of the 1963 All-Star Game after posting 19 points, 24 rebounds and five assists.

21,620 rebounds: Russell was a dominant rebounder, and that is evidenced by the 21,620 boards he managed to steal during his career. It is the second most rebounds by a player in NBA history. Only Wilt Chamberlain (23,924) caught more in his playing days. In addition to total rebounds, Russell (22.5 rebounds per game) is also second only to Chamberlain (22.9) for career rebounds per game average.

Four rebounding titles: Given how adept Russell was at rebounding, it’s no surprise that he led the league in that category four times (1958, 1959, 1964, 1965). He is one of three players, along with Kevin Garnett and Andre Drummond, to lead the league in rebounding four times. The only players leading the league in rebounding are Chamberlain (11), Dennis Rodman (seven), Moses Malone (six) and Dwight Howard (five).

An NBA Lifetime Achievement Award: In 2019, Russell received the inaugural NBA Lifetime Achievement Award — an award given by the league to a player who has exemplified extraordinary success on and off the court in the NBA. Other winners of the award include Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.

A trophy to his name: Every year, the NBA Finals MVP hoists a trophy named after Russell — The Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award. It’s an honor to have a trophy named after you, especially one as important and influential as the Finals MVP award. It shows how highly the league views Russell. Unfortunately for Russell, he never won the award himself, as it was first introduced in 1969, his final year in the league.

The names of all four NBA birthday teams: The NBA has honored the game’s greatest players with anniversary teams on four separate occasions. A 25th Anniversary Team was selected in 1971 and a 35th Anniversary Team was named in 1980. The league celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1996 and its 75th anniversary in 2021. Russell was one of four players named to all four anniversary teams. . The other three players in the foursome are Bob Cousy, George McCann and Bob Pettit.

In addition to all of the above accomplishments, Russell was also the first athlete to win an Olympic gold medal, an NBA championship and a college title, and he became the first African-American to coach a major professional sports team when he role with the Celtics in 1966. His number 6 was retired by the Celtics and the University of San Francisco, where he played college ball.

Labeling Russell’s career as legendary feels like underselling it, but it was exactly that, as he had a huge impact both on and off the court.