William Felton Russell holds the title of Most Winningest Player in basketball history. He led his alma mater at the University of San Francisco to 2 NCAA Championships in 1955-56. He then went on to the 1956 Summer Olympics where as captain of the Mens Basketball Team dominated the olympics and beat Russia for the Gold Medal. He then started his NBA career where he and the Boston Celtics went on to win 11 NBA Championships.
Bill excelled in shot blocking and man to man defense, one can actually attribute the success of the Celtics due to those facts. But his niche was in his rebounding ability. Remarkably, for 12 consecutive seasons he had over 1000 rebounds per season for a career total of 21,620. Divide that by a 13 year playing career and that’s a staggering average of 1,663 rebounds per season!
Similar to Jackie Robinson, Russell was the first African-American player to achieve the status of ‘Superstar’ in the NBA.
Through the 1966-69 seasons he served as player/coach making him the first African American NBA Coach as well. For his accomplishments on and off the court, Former President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.
He was declared “The Greatest Player in the History of the NBA” by the Professional Basketball Writers Association of America in 1980. Russell made his team mates better players and that eventually trickled down to the league. He raised the bar for defensive play and changed how the game was played because of it. Many speak of his intense competitive nature and his desire to win.
DID YOU KNOW:
- He went to high school with Baseball Hall of Famer Frank Robinson.
- Hosted Saturday Night Live on November 3, 1979.
- Wrote a book in 1979 titled, Second Wind.
- In 2009 the NBA renamed the Finals MVP Award to the ‘Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP Award.’
ROOKIE CARD OF HALL OF FAMER BILL RUSSELL
1957-58 Topps, Card #77 (shop eBay)
Bill Russell’s first appearance on card board is out of the 1957-58 Topps and is considered his only rookie card. This was Topps first basketball set released. The complete set of 80 cards was distributed in 5-cent packs. A very large portion of this set, 47 to be exact, are considered rookie cards. The photo on this card is not the greatest but I like the dual colored ribbon on the bottom which gives us his name and team. The back of the card I absolutely love! Pure vintage here folks. Check out the guy standing next to the ruler giving us Bill Russell’s height. Also, the backboard image with the card number inside of it on the upper left hand corner of the card. I really miss these types of card backs. This was the first basketball set released by Topps and the only one until 1969.
As of the date of this post low end graded copies (1-3’s) sell between $350-$1,300; mid grade copies (4-6’s) sell for $1450-$3,050 and high end grades (7-8’s) sell in the $15,400-$24,000 range.
1961-62 Fleer, Card #38 (shop eBay)
His second mainstream card is out of the 1961-62 Fleer and is a bit easier on the wallet and easier to find. Although not considered a RC, to collectors this one is the next best thing because there was a three-year void (1958-1960) in which zero basketball sets were released.
As of the date of this post mid grade copies (4-6’s) sell between $120-$270; high end grades (7-9’s) sell in the $430-$4,300 range.