Celtics center who changed pro basketball, Bill Russell, dies at 88

Celtics center who changed pro basketball, Bill Russell, dies at 88

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At McClymonds High School in Oakland, Russell became a starter on the basketball team as a senior, emphasizing defense and rebounding. Former University of San Francisco basketball player Hal DeJulio, who transferred to his alma mater, recognized Russell’s potential and gave him to coach Phil Wolpert.

Russell was awarded a scholarship and became an All-American, along with guard Casey Jones, his future Celtics teammate, in leading San Francisco to the NCAA Championship the past two seasons. Following a loss to UCLA in Russell’s junior year, the team went on a 55-game winning streak. He averaged over 20 points and 20 rebounds for three seasons.

“Nobody ever played basketball like I did,” Russell told Sports magazine in 1963, recalling his college career. “They had never seen anyone block shots before. Now I’m proud: I like to think I’ve invented a new style of playing.”

In the year In the mid-1950s, the Celtics had a highly talented team that featured Bob Cousy, the league’s greatest small man, and Bill Sharman, the point guard, and Ed McCauley, the sharpshooter. But they have never won a championship because they don’t have a center of power.

The Rochester Royals They had the No. 1 pick in the 1956 NBA draft, but they already had a good big man, Maurice Stokes, and owner Les Harrison was reluctant to commit to what he believed was a bidding war with Harlem for Russell. The Globetrotters were reportedly willing to offer him a good deal. So the Royals drafted Hugo Greene, a guard from Duquesne.

The St. Louis Hawks had the No. 2 draft pick, but they didn’t think they could afford Russell. Auerbach convinced the Celtics to trade that pick for St. Louis native McCauley and promising rookie Cliff Hagan. That allowed Boston to take Russell.

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