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NBA Legend Bill Russell
In this Dec. 12, 1964 file photo, Boston Celtics' Bill Russell, left, is congratulated by coach Arnold "Red" Auerbach after scoring his 10,000th career point during a basketball game against the Baltimore Bullets at the Boston Garden in Boston. As a coach, Red Auerbach got the most out of Bill Russell as a player not by yelling at him, or teaching him new techniques. He just talked to him man-to-man. Russell celebrates their relationship in a new book about Auerbach. (AP)

In this Dec. 12, 1964 file photo, the Boston Celtics' Bill Russell, left, is congratulated by coach Arnold "Red" Auerbach after scoring his 10,000th career point during a basketball game against the Baltimore Bullets at the Boston Garden. (AP)

NBA basketball legend Bill Russell may be the greatest team player in the history of the sport.

Five-time NBA MVP. Twelve-time All-Star. Center for a basketball dynasty that won 11 NBA championships. Michael Jordan can’t match that.

Bill Russell still has his eye on basketball. He’s been watching the playoffs underway right now — and thinking about his lifelong friendship with the Boston Celtics coach, Red Auerbach, who helped him cross color lines and go for greatness.

This hour, On Point: A conversation on life, friendship, and basketball with all-time great, Bill Russell.

You can join the conversation. Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.


Bill Russell joins us from Seattle, Wash. His new book is “Red and Me: My Coach, My Lifelong Friend.” You can read the Prologue and browse inside the book at HarperCollins.com.

From Newton, Mass., we’re joined by Dan Shaughnessy, sports columnist for The Boston Globe. He’s the author of many books, including “Seeing Red: The Red Auerbach Story.”

And from Hanover, N.H., is Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst, senior editor at The Atlantic, native Bostonian and lifelong Celtics fan.

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  • Barb

    I would love to know what Mr. Russell’s thoughts are on his own younger days with the game of basketball. We live in a day where pressure is put on kids at a younger and younger age to perform: acceleration training, year round competitive play, structured weight room sessions (at eight and nine).

    (One of the most disturbing things I ever saw was a nine year old pitcher icing his arm between innings.)

    My dad was a local all star athlete- he thought this early obsession (usually forced by parents) was bad for kids and could lead to burnout- and often does. I would love to know what Mr. Russell thinks of this.

    Thank you!

  • Justin

    If Paul Pierce plays his entire career as a Celtic, but retires with only one ring, does he deserve to have his number retired?

    Also, if Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett play the rest of their careers with Boston, but only get two rings, should their numbers be retired?

    And what do the Celtics do once they’ve run out of numbers to retire?

  • M.S. Reed

    I’m a big Celtics fan and a bigger Bill Russell fan. Much as I loved his playing and his fabulous sense of humor, he gave me more than enjoyment. As a small-town girl from Maine, I didn’t know much about race and the problems blacks faced, but his book Second Wind opened my eyes. He taught me things I needed to know, and I’m grateful.

  • Mike

    great show

  • Jim Shanor

    Let Bill Russel finish his answers. Quit interrupting. Wonderful guest. Thanks.

  • Lee

    I recall a comment by frank defort that the difference between Wilt and Russell was that Russell played basketball where as Wilt played with a basketball

  • dennis

    Can Mr Russell comment on Walt Bellamy, the third great center of his era, who is now seemingly forgotten.

    dlh, scottsdale

  • LuxI

    I was at a game in Cleveland two years ago. They were doing a halftime tribute to four players. I don’t know the reason. They did a video and talked about the player for a minute. Then the player stepped forward to acknowledge the crowd.

    The Cleveland fans reacted this way:

    Patrick Ewing: Booed Loudly
    Bill Walton: Booed mildly
    Julius Erving: Cheered respectfully
    Bill Russell: Load and sustained standing ovation

    Half-way through the ovation, Mr. Russell rubbed his chin and broke-out in a grin like he was having a private Sally Field moment.

    For some reason he is beloved in Cleveland. Not sure why.

  • Gay

    My husband and I flew from Seattle to Boston in July, 5 or 6 years ago. There were just 3 of us in first class on that flight. My husband immediately recognized the other passenger, Bill Russell, although he did not speak to him till we landed in Boston. The entire flight my husband shared with me moments he recalled from his growing up days in Syracuse, NY, in the 50′s. He explained at that time Syracuse had a pro basketball team and the Celtics always beat them, he took that really hard! Despite the losses he truly admired Bill Russel, not just for his athletic ability but for the way he conducted his life. He knew that Bill Russell was a private person who didn’t like being approached and questioned and he respected that. As we were disembarking my husband simply said ” Mr Russell, as a kid growing up in Syracuse in the 50′s you caused me a lot of heartache. ” Bill Russell said nothing but turned around and smiled. For the rest of the day my husband’s feet didn’t touch the ground. He would have been listening today, recalling all the events discussed but he passed away 3 years ago. Wish he could have heard your show. Thanks for giving me this moment to recall a very happy memory.

  • Jim

    Wilt allegedly focus on ladies… Bill Russell focus on winning championships.

  • http://nbaroundtable.wordpress.com/ Dave

    Much enjoyed interview. Great stuff.

  • Jim

    I was on the line waiting to talk with Bill Russell but the show ended. I wanted to ask him if he thought Red’s lighting his cigars when a game was decided but not over, contributed to his not being named “coach of the year” earlier in his career. Growing up in the 50-60′s in Boston, I was fortunate to have the Celtics to watch. My friends and I would pay $2 to get into the garden, then sneak down to sit by the court. We would wince whenever Bill was at the foul line or took a shot so I understand why there weren’t any offensive plays for him. But could he play defense. Unlike players since then, when Bill blocked a shot he would also either grab it or hit it to a teammate. I could go on forever commenting on Bill Russell. When I was 12 and the center on my CYO team, I was lucky to get the #6 jersey. If only I could have played a little like him.

  • jim shyne

    I was an all state player in high school and later attended a division2 college on a basketball scholarship. I went to many Celtics weeknight home games in the mid-late 60′s,when they won 11 NBA championships in 13 years, a record that will never be broken.

    In those days, you could pay $2.oo for a 3rd balcony seat, then sneak down to courtside seats in the first few rows, again, for weeknight home games in the old garden.

    I saw Bill Russell up close dozens of times.Young kids today find it hard to believe when I tell them that to this day, William Felton Russell is still the fastest, and quickest 6’10″ player and the best rebounder and shot blocker in the history of the game.

    I regard myself as a true student of the game.Believe me when I tell you that Bill Russell would be a totally dominant player in today’s NBA.People are incredulous when I tell them that Russ’s teammates, like Sam Jones(The greatest forgotten player in NBA history, who like Ray Allen,also scored 51 in a 1967 playoff game against The Knicks prior to the 3 point field goal), John Havlicek and Tommy Heinsohn Would be great players in today’s NBA.

    Bill Russell is still the first player I would draft, ahead of all others, even Larry Bird,LeBron, Michael or Koby were I to start ramping up a team to compete for an NBA title

  • http://www.jamesbrandewie.com James R. Brandewie

    Bill Russells laugh is a national treasure. One of my favorite people in the world. If I had a wish to meet a celebrity he is the one.

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  • Kalin G.


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