Russell was the centerpiece of their dynasty during the late 1950s and 1960s, leading them to 11 NBA championships in his 13 seasons in the league.
Off the court, he was also a tireless advocate for civil rights, fairness, kindness, and humanity.
The 6-foot-10 center helped put the NBA on the map during the equivalence of its childhood, but decades later, as the league matured into the monster in the midway it’s been ever since, it became clear that Russell played a central role in laying down its foundation.
Russell Defined Defense In The NBA
In the early days of the NBA, defense wasn’t emphasized nearly as much as it is in modern times.
The game was played at a breakneck pace and shooting percentages were lower than they are today, but team defensive schemes or philosophies didn’t really exist back then.
But Russell, along with his head coach Red Auerbach, helped make playing defense not just fashionable, but also mandatory.
The big man may have been the greatest shot blocker and rim protector of all time, and he wasn’t necessarily blocking shots in a haphazard way.
Russell was smart about timing his blocked shots, and he would block shots in the direction of a teammate in order to start a fast break.
It’s anyone’s guess just how many shots he rejected, as blocked shots weren’t kept as a statistic until several years after he retired.
He was also a ferocious rebounder, not to mention the emotional and spiritual leader of the team.
Russell wasn’t exactly a dominant offensive player, as he averaged only 15.1 points a game on 44.0 percent shooting for his career, but he was unselfish, as he empowered his teammates to assume the load on that end of the floor.
It also didn’t hurt that Russell averaged 4.3 assists a contest over his 13 seasons.