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Bill Russell and I share at least two things in common. We both love the game of basketball, and we both lived in the town of Reading, Massachusetts in the late 50's and early 60's. I never knew about the vandalism to his home until many years after it happened, but I have thought about it often. What occurred was an absolute horror, and the Police Investigator in me has never left, so I offer the following.


Bill resided in two different homes in Reading, the first on Main Street - and the second on Haverhill Street, a home shielded from view by evergreen trees. As a student at Reading High School, the school bus I rode passed both homes, and I recall that most us knew that Russ lived in those homes - we would discuss it - and I can not remember any negative comments relative to Bill living there. We were actually in awe of the fact such an important figure lived in our town.

Russ also frequented a bowling alley on Water Street in Wakefield, Same thoughts. My group might have wondered if they had bowling shoes big enough to fit him, but we never had a bad word to say, nor did I hear any from other patrons.

Bill's first home on Main Street and his second home on Haverhill Street were not too far apart, but home #2 was certainly an upgrade, and I still go past it at times heading to North Reading my favorite restaurant of all time (Anyone guess the name of the restaurant?). As I wrote, our school bus went by both homes, and in retrospect, after many decades of life experience and 20 years of police investigative work, there is no guarantee that the following is what occurred, but it would make sense.

Russ and his family had returned home from a three-day trip to find racial slurs written on the walls and human feces in the bed. Was it a racial incident? Of course it was. That would not have happened had a white family lived in Russell's home - but there is more.


I recall vividly that there were two unruly, borderline-evil teenage boys who were neighbors and friends of each other, and they pulled rowdy, bullying acts that no one seemed capable of stopping. They also happened to be neighbors of Bill Russell and his family. The acts described just scream unruly, unrestrained, destructive teenage boys. I could be wrong, but I don't envision even a lawbreaking adult doing that kind of act. But I can imagine a bigoted adult or two not wanting a black neighbor, and therefore encouraging such an atrocity. My two young (at the time) suspects fit this evil act like a glove.

Red Auerbach made it clear that his revenge against any enemy, on the court or off it, would be to "outlive the bastards". He did well at that, and so is Russ. I did the best I could to relive those moments when Bill returned home to find what he did. As Bill's former sidekick, Sam Jones told me (concerning racism), "You have to walk in my shoes". I can't imagine what Russ went through relative to that incident, and the many more that he and Sam encountered.

But all I see is that Russell has outlived some enemies, and he looks great. He is still deeply involved in basketball, and is even active on Twitter. I would estimate that the vandals, if still alive, would be in their mid-70's. I remember the names of my two suspects vividly, and I doubt those two imbeciles ever led a pleasant life. Russ seems to be doing just fine. My Reading friends loved you then, Bill, and I can vouch for myself and say that I still do. Just great to see you alive, kicking and still playful. And to your remaining enemies, we give the following:

Did I mention - great to see you still playful?


Follow Tom at @TomLaneHC

Photo via Sporting News & AP









Tom Lane 10/06/2018 12:41:00 PM Edit
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