Photo credits: Neil Leifer for Sports Illustrated
Bill Russell, the Hall of Fame center who played 13 seasons in the NBA, was chosen to the All-Star team 12 times throughout his career.
He was named to the All-NBA First Team three times, and he was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player five times. He was also a strong rebounder, and he was named to the league’s all-star team five times. Russell is most well-known for his 11 NBA championships with the Boston Celtics, which is an NBA record.
Russell served as a player-coach for the Boston Celtics during his last three seasons as a member of the team. A player-coach was a member of a team who was responsible for both playing and coaching responsibilities, a position that no longer exists in the world of professional basketball today. Russell was in charge of both the starting center position and the head coaching position. He was instrumental in breaking the color barrier for African-American head coaches in professional basketball in the United States.
In addition, in 1966, legendary Boston Celtics head coach Red Auerbach, who was responsible for the NBA’s first African-American player being drafted in 1950, announced his retirement from coaching to become the team’s general manager. Auerbach would offer the head coaching post to his star center, who accepted the offer on April 16, 1966, according to the team’s official website. During his time with the Boston Celtics, Russell served as player-coach from 1966 to 1969.
The Celtics would go on to win two NBA Championships over that span of three years.