Bill Russell defeated La Salle’s Tom Gola before tormenting Wilt Chamberlain and the Warriors and 76ers.

Bill Russell defeated La Salle’s Tom Gola before tormenting Wilt Chamberlain and the Warriors and 76ers.


One of the most underrated events in his life is a testament to Bill Russell’s transformation of college basketball. His work and activism in the civil rights movement, his impressive career with the Boston Celtics, his status as the greatest winner in North American team sports: these qualities and accomplishments were listed and praised, rightly so, postseason. His death last Sunday. His passing in Philadelphia echoed as much as his role as rival to the two city basketball players. One of them was the day Hector changed sports forever.

» Read more: Wilt Chamberlain vs. Bill Russell: Reflecting on the NBA’s first individual rivalry

For those who grew up rooting for the Warriors or 76ers, Russell A A different kind of competitor. Untouchable, nameless… Something – An impossible desire to overcome? Strength? Selflessness? All these features and more? – Wilt Chamberlain was absent and the Celtics could not win. Red Auerbach lights a victory cigar and praises it, which makes him easy to hate, but has nothing to do with Russell, who respects him for his greatness, especially his ability to enhance the collective abilities of his teammates.

Before he hit the Warriors and Sixers seven times in the game and won those 11 championships in 13 NBA seasons, however, Russell dethroned the king of college hoops – the king of Philadelphia college hoops, the king of national college hoops.

More than 70 years have passed Tom emerged as the outstanding hunter. A sport that needs saving, so its impact is hard to appreciate now. But it was realistic and meaningful. When Gola led La Salle to the 1952 Madison Square Garden championship — a season when the NIT was more prestigious than the NCAA Tournament — it was a time when college basketball was beginning to purge itself of point-shaving scandals, especially at schools. Based in New York, it was ruining the sport.

» Read more: Remembering Tom Golan: A Philadelphia Legend

Gola was the perfect poster child. He was the son of a policeman. His reputation was pure. He played for a small college in his hometown. He was handsome and 6-foot-6 and unlike any player before him, he could play anywhere on the floor.

“He was Magic Johnson without the flair,” the late college basketball writer and historian Bob Vetrone Sr. once said.

National magazines profiled him and put his photo on their covers. appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. He would finish his college career with 2,461 points and 2,201 rebounds. The latter mark remains an NCAA record. La Salle won the 1954 national championship and reached the title game again the next year, when the 26-4 Raiders faced a team with only one loss: the San Francisco Dons. A team that nobody around the country paid much attention to. One team, in the early days of college basketball’s integration, had three black starters, one of whom was a 6-foot-5, 158-pound junior center who grew four inches when he entered USF. More than 50 kg of muscle in the next two years. Team with Bill Russell.

“West Coast wasn’t a popular thing in NCAA basketball,” he said he said. In the year In 1989, “People don’t believe me, but Bill Russell wasn’t a big name on the East Coast. … Russell didn’t know me, and I didn’t know him. In fact, I had never seen Bill Russell until we met in the hotel lobby.

That meeting took place on March 19, 1955, the day of the national title game, at the hotel in Kansas City where the La Salle and USF teams were staying. Russell and assistant coach Ross Giudice walked past Gola and La Salle head coach Ken Loeffler in the lobby.

“Well, we’re honored,” Russell told Judis. “Here it is, Mr. Gola.

“You’re going to see a lot of him tonight,” Loeffler said.

Not exactly. Because Gola was La Salle’s defacto point guard, USF head coach Phil Wolpert wanted to limit the time Russell spent guarding him for fear that Gola would drag Russell off the lane and basket. So Wolpert appointed guard Casey Jones to cover the goal; This allowed Russell to get off the man and help Jones. The strategy surprised Loeffler and the explorers, and it worked admirably. Billy Packer, who spent more than 30 years as a college basketball analyst, was 15 years old and a big believer. He listened to the game on the radio and couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

“The playmaker talks about Russell blocking Tom Golan’s shots,” Packers They spoke John Feinstein for The Feinstein Book The Final Dance: Behind the Scenes at the Final Four. “I’m thinking this is impossible. No one in the spotlight can do that. Who is this man Russell?’

He finished that game with 23 points and 25 rebounds as the Dons won easily, 77-63. Mann missed nine of 15 field goals with Jones and limited him to 16 points. Who led San Francisco to a 55-game winning streak, an undefeated season and another national title in 1955-56. It took college basketball over the edge. That forced the NCAA to change the rules, widening the lane from six feet to 12 feet and outlawing offensive linemen.

Gola helped rebuild the sport. Russell helped redefine it. Gola represented where the sport is. Russell represented where the sport would be. A person’s legacy is a worthy aspect.

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