(continued from above)
That moment as called by famed Celtics broadcaster Johnny Most is an NBA treasure. In his gravelly voice Most screamed, "Havlicek steals it. Over to Sam Jones. Havlicek stole the ball! It's all over! Johnny Havlicek stole the ball!"
The NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers was almost anticlimactic, as the Celtics claimed the championship in five games. For his play that season, Russell won his fifth and final NBA Most Valuable Player Award.
Following another NBA Championship in 1965-66, Red Auerbach retired, and Russell took over as player-coach the following season, becoming the first African-American coach in the league. He led Boston to a 60-21 regular-season record, but the Celtics finally had their string of championships snapped when they lost to a powerful Philadelphia 76ers team in the Eastern Division Finals. The Sixers went 68-13 in the regular season and is considered one of the league's best ever, trounced the Celtics in five games to advance to the NBA Finals.
After that one-year hiatus, Boston returned to form in 1967-68, recapturing the championship under Russell's direction. In the Eastern Division Finals, the club came back from a two-game deficit to force a seventh game with Chamberlain and the 76ers. The Celtics were leading, 97-95, with 34 seconds left when Russell took over. He sank a foul shot, blocked a shot by Walker, grabbed a rebound off a Greer miss, and fed the ball to Sam Jones, who made the final basket in a 100-96 triumph. Boston then beat Los Angeles in six games in the NBA Finals.
The 1968-69 season was even more gratifying. The aging Celtics barely made it into the playoffs with a 48-34 record, then caught fire in the postseason. In Russell's third year as player-coach, Boston repeated as NBA champion by defeating the Lakers, who had acquired Chamberlain, in a seven-game battle for the title. The great Celtics leader promptly retired, having guided the team to 11 championships in 13 years. Russell had amassed 21,620 career rebounds, second in NBA history only to Chamberlain's 23,924.
In 1973, Russell resurfaced as head coach and general manager of the Seattle SuperSonics. He took a team that had won only 26 games the year before and put it on a winning track, notching 36 victories the next season and then compiling a 43-39 record to earn a playoff berth in 1974-75. But Russell became frustrated at the players' reluctance to embrace his team concept. Some suggested that the problem was Russell himself; he was said to be aloof, moody and unable to accept anything but the Celtics' tradition. In any event, his enthusiasm for the task waned after his fourth season in 1976-77, and he departed.
Ironically, Lenny Wilkens
guided Seattle to a championship two years later, preaching the same team concept that Russell had tried unsuccessfully to instill in his players. A decade after he left Seattle, Russell gave coaching another try, replacing Jerry Reynolds as coach of the Sacramento Kings early in the 1987-88 season. The team staggered to a 17-41 record, and Russell departed in midseason.
Between coaching stints Russell was most visible as a color commentator on televised basketball games. For a time he was paired with the equally blunt Rick Barry
; the duo provided brutally frank commentary on the game. Russell was never comfortable in that setting, though, explaining to the Sacramento Bee
, "The most successful television is done in eight-second thoughts, and the things I know about basketball, motivation and people go deeper than that." He also dabbled with acting, performing in a Seattle Children's Theatre show and an episode of Miami Vice and he wrote a provocative autobiography, Second Wind.
Russell's lack of consistent success in other endeavors hasn't diminished his place in basketball history, and he has had no shortage of postcareer honors over the years. In 1970, he was named to the NBA 25th Anniversary All-Time Team. In 1974, Russell was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. In 1980, he was named to the NBA 35th Anniversary All-Time Team. That same year, he was voted Greatest Player in the History of the NBA by the Professional Basketball Writers Association of America.
Although the arrival of Michael Jordan later in the decade may have reopened the debate over who was truly the game's best player, what remains irrefutable is that Russell radically changed people's thinking about how basketball games are won.
Career Statistics GFG%FT%RebsRPGAstsAPGPtsPPG963.440.56121,62022.54,1004.314,52215.1