When people remember Bill Russell, it’s more often for leading Boston to 11 championships in 13 years through his play on the defensive end. The fact that he’s second all-time in both total rebounds and rebounds per game, and widely considered to be the greatest shot blocker of all time (blocks were not an official stat during Russell’s career), overshadows any offensive numbers that he may have put up. But don’t get it twisted, Bill Russell could ball. Take a look at this old footage that recently surfaced where Russell grabs a rebound, goes coast-to-coast, and leaps over some short white dude for an easy layup.
There are no centers in the league today with that type of handle and athletic ability. However, there are also no guards in the league that are so tiny and feeble as to allow a player to jump over them in the lane. If there’s one thing players have learned in the modern era, it’s to get out of the way when a monster leaper is coming down the lane. This poor guy never thought of running away in preparation for the next possession, but thankfully for him, they didn’t really make posters back then either.
Russell is a figure who transcends sports. An outspoken athlete who championed civil rights, became the first African-American coach in a major sport, and has earned a statue outside the TD Garden. Two years ago, Boston Magazine published an article by Paul Flannery which lobbied for just such an homage to the greatest winner of all time. If you feel inclined to brush up on your basketball history, there’s not a better read out there about Bill Russell.