There is an ongoing debate in sports, comparing athletes from different generations, as if a level playing field exists between them. Would the Lakers of the 70s wipe the floor with the 90s iteration? Are Larry Bird’s Celtics superior to Michael Jordan’s Bulls? These arguments generally end as deadlocked as they begin. I have one more for you. Where do the hall of fame studded Celtics teams of the 50s and 60s stack up compared to today’s competition, specifically their all-star center, Bill Russell? Some would argue their success should be adjusted for inflation.
Bill Russell won an NCAA championship, Olympic Gold Medal, and NBA title, all in one year. He went on to win eleven NBA titles in thirteen seasons, the last two as a player coach with no assistants. All told, in the twenty-one years Russell played organized basketball he won championships eighteen times.
In a recent ceremony at Boston’s City Hall Plaza, a bronze statue was erected in Russell’s honor, as much for his off-court accomplishments as his on-court achievements. Success like that lends itself easily to a blueprint for the ever-evolving man, particularly those of us in our mid-to-late twenties. This is the time we forge who and what we’ll be. Whether it’s a new job, progressing career, or pushing our way through the struggles of the everyday, we’re in that flux state, laying the bricks for the foundation of whom we’re going to be. Russell’s life and career provide a roughed out sketch of the innovation, teamwork, and integrity we’ll need to be the best possible versions of ourselves as we get where we’re going. The following is a glimpse into his life, career, and accomplishments in a way that we might try to emulate, if we’re lucky enough. Though Russell doesn’t believe in luck