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Today, February 12th is the 83rd anniversary of the birth of former Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell.

Russell, widely considered one of the greatest to ever play the game, was renowned for his unearthly defensive skills, especially rebounding and shot-blocking. To this day, he is still in second-place for both total rebounds and rebounds per game in the NBA, and along with Wilt Chamberlain, is one of two players to ever have over 50 rebounds in a game. He's also one of only seven players to win Olympic Gold, an NCAA championship, and an NBA championship - actually, eleven of the latter, more than any other player, and is one of only four players to win back-to-back NCAA and NBA titles. His list of achievements is too long to list in its entirety, as he also coached in the league, both as a player-coach with Boston and later as coach-only with the Seattle Supersonics and Sacramento Kings. He was also a major force not only in integrating the then-white dominated sport, but serving as a noteworthy activist in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.


The depth and breadth of his impact on the sport cannot be overemphasized. While the idea his teammates with the Celtics would be considered ancillary was ridiculous by any stretch of the imagination, Russell was the engine that drove the franchise to greatness in his 13-year career, all of it in Beantown. He averaged 22.5 rebounds and 15.1 points per game over that stretch, and likely had an equally mind-boggling average for blocks, but they were not recorded in that era (in fact, Russell was instrumental in integrating the action more firmly into the defensive end of the court).


Acquiring Russell from the St. Louis Hawks proved to be most auspicious, given that that team had eyes for Celtics center Ed McAuley, and Ed, from the area, had eyes for the opportunity to play near home to be closer to one of his children, struggling with illness. The Celtics also managed Tommy Heinsohn with a "regional" pick (designed to give teams first cracks at local talent and no longer used), and K.C. Jones, Russell's college teammate, with a later pick. If anyone has since bested Red's draft record that night - three Hall-of-Famers, including one top-five player - I can't think of who it might be.


It also happens to be the birthday of former Celtic big man Scott Pollard, who won a championship with Boston in his final year in the league after spending the previous ten seasons with the Detroit Pistons, the Kings, the Indiana Pacers, and Cleveland Cavaliers. He also is known for having appeared on the popular reality television show Survivor as a celebrity contestant in their 2016 season (how long has that show been on for, now, anyway?).


Today is also the day that, because then-owner John Y. Brown had the hots for ex-Miss America Phyllis George, who herself had an interest (possibly limited merely to sports) for (at that time) New York Knick Bob McAdoo, the ownership went over Red's head and traded three future first round picks and forward Tom Barker to acquire McAdoo. Auerbach nearly quit and joined the Knicks, but the fans convinced him to stay - in no small part because of the efforts of one taxi driver. McAdoo only played a single season in Boston, and only 20 games of it. While his production was not terrible - 20.6 points and 7.1 boards per game - especially when considering he was playing hurt, you would be hard-pressed to find a worse return on three first round draft picks in the history of the league. Weirder still - and perhaps the ultimate testament to Red's capabilities as a general manager, the trade would provide Auerbach with the ammunition to assemble the Kevin McHale/Robert Parish/Larry Bird squads of the 1980s - another story, and a fitting bookend for this day.



For more stories about Celtics history on Celticslife, click here. For more by Justin, click here.






Photo via Associated Press
Data via basketball-reference.com
Follow Justin at @justinquinnn

Justin Quinn 2/12/2017 12:29:00 PM Edit
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