Boston Celtics - 1956-69
Appearances - 13 (1957,1958,1959,1960,1961,1962,1963,1964,1965,1966,1967,1968,1969)
Conference Finals - 13 (1957,1958,1959,1960,1961,1962,1963,1964,1965,1966,1967,1968,1969)
NBA Finals - 12 (1957,1958,1959,1960,1961,1962,1963,1964,1965,1966,1968,1969)
Championships - 11 (1957,1959,1960,1961,1962,1963,1964,1965,1966,1968,1969)
Awards and Honors
Rookie of the Year - 1957
MVP - 5 (1958,1961,1962,1963,1965)
Finals MVP - 0 (1960,1961,1962,1963,1964,1965,1966,1969)
All-NBA First Team - 3 (1958,1959,1960,1961,1963,1964,1965,1966,1967)
All-NBA Second Team - 8 (1957,1958,1960,1961,1962,1963,1964,1966,1967,1968,1969)
Hall of Fame - 1975
*(actual in bold, deserved in italics)
Total Rebounds - #2
Rebounds Per Game - #2
Total Rebounds (#1-1958,1959,1964,1965, #2-1960,1961,1962,1963,1966,1967, #3-1968,1969, #4-1957)
Rebounds Per Game (#1-1957,1958,1959,1964,1965, #2-1960,1961,1962,1963,1966, #3-1967,1968,1969)
Field Goal Percentage (#2-1959, #3-1958, #4-1960, #5-1957)
Total Assists (#4-1967, #5-1965)
Assists Per Game (#5-1965)
In 3 seasons at the University of San Francisco, Bill Russell averaged 20.7 points and 20.3 rebounds and led the Dons to back-to-back championships, leading the St. Louis Hawks to draft him #2 overall, then trade him to the Celtics for Cliff Hagan and Ed Macauley.
Russell was a member of the 1956 Olympic team that played in Melbourne, Australia, and the games took place in November and December to line up with summer in the southern hemisphere, causing Russell to miss the start of his rookie season. After winning a gold medal while leading the United States in scoring, he finally arrived in Boston in late December.
As a rookie, Russell led the league in rebounding, averaging 19.6 per game to go with 14.7 points, but lost out on the Rookie of the Year award to teammate Tom Heinsohn, which caused a difficult relationship between the two. Russell helped Bob Cousy lead the Celtics to the Finals for the first time in their history, where they beat the Hawks in 7 games in a double-overtime thriller.
The next year, Russell again led the league in rebounding, this time with 22.7 per game, and raised his scoring to 16.6. Russell was named the league's MVP, but was strangely only voted to the All-NBA Second Team. He helped lead the Celtics back to the Finals, but he injured his foot in Game 3 of the team's rematch with the Hawks, missing the next 2 games before attempting a comeback in Game 6, which they lost.
Russell was just as great the next year, winning his third straight rebounding title, and the Celtics reached the Finals for the third year in a row, and they made up for the disappointment of the year before, sweeping the Lakers in the Finals to take home their second championship.
Wilt Chamberlain made his debut the next year, and Russell averaged 18.2 points and 24.0 rebounds, but did not win the rebounding title. He set a league record that year with 51 rebounds in a single game, but Chamberlain broke that the next year by grabbing 55, and those 2 performances are still the 2 highest in history. Boston met the Hawks in the Finals for the third time, and Russell scored 22 points with 35 rebounds in Game 7 to give Boston the victory. The Finals MVP award did not exist yet, but I believe that this performance would have earned Russell his first of 8 in his career.
After a relatively easy championship the next year over the Lakers, the big news of the 1961-62 season was Wilt averaging 50 points per game, but Boston became the first team ever to win 60 games, and Russell was named the MVP again as a result. They beat Wilt and the Warriors in the Conference Finals, then went to 7 games against the Lakers in the Finals, with Russell putting up 30 points and 40 rebounds in the deciding final game.
Cousy retired after that season, but that didn't change anything for the Celtics, with Russell winning his 4th MVP and the Celtics winning their 6th championship in 7 seasons with another win over the Lakers in the Finals. In 1964, Russell averaged a career high 24.7 rebounds per game, beating Chamberlain for the rebounding title for the first time, then beat Chamberlain and the San Francisco Warriors in the Finals in 5 games.
Russell won his 5th MVP the next year after the Celtics broke their own record with 62 wins, with Russell winning his 5th rebounding title as well with 24.1 per game. The beat Wilt and his new team, the 76ers, in a tough 7-game Conference Finals, then beat the Lakers in the Finals in 5 games to win their 7th title in a row.
His numbers dipped a bit the next year, down to 12.9 points and 22.8 rebounds, but he led the Celtics to the Finals for the 10th year in a row. They faced the Lakers yet again, and the series went the full 7 games, with Russell finishing off the final game with 25 points and 32 rebounds to win his 9th championship.
Coach Red Auerbach retired after that season, and Russell was named the team's new coach while still playing as well. He averaged 13.3 points and 21.0 rebounds that year, but the 76ers set a new record with 68 wins that year, then knocked off the Celtics in the Conference Finals, marking the only time in Russell's career that he wouldn't reach the Finals, and the only time he lost in the playoffs without being injured.
By this time, John Havlicek had become the Celtics best player, but Russell still played a big role, and they were able to bounce back and reach the Finals again in 1968. The faced the Lakers once again, and beat them in 6 games, winning a 10th championship for Russell, with 5 coming against the Lakers.
Russell came back for one last season, averaging 9.9 points and 19.3 rebounds, still good for #3 in the league, which was the 13th year in a row he had been in the top 3. The team struggled, barely making the playoffs, but pulled off a couple of upsets in the playoffs to reach the Finals again, where they beat the Lakers in 7 games for a final championship. After the game, Russell walked away from the game, not even attending the championship parade, and announced his retirement in Sports Illustrated, leaving the Celtics without a starting center or a coach.
Russell is the greatest champion in the history of sports. He won 2 championships in high school, 2 in college, 1 in the Olympics, and 11 in the NBA. He led the NBA in rebounding 5 times, finished in the top 3 in all 13 of his seasons, and is #2 on the all-time list for total rebounds and rebounds per game. He was well-known as a great shot-blocker, but they weren't recorded during his career, so there is no telling how much that could have helped him in these rankings, but even with the numbers that are available, he is definitely one of the greatest to ever play the game.