c.1960 4

William Felton "Bill" Russell (February 12, 1934 - July 31, 2022) was a renowned NBA basketball player who grew up in Oakland.

Russell was born in Monroe, Louisiana. The Russells faced racism in Louisiana, and moved to Oakland when Russell was eight (c. 1942). His mother, Katie Russell, died when he was 12 and Russell was raised by his father, Charles "Charlie" Russell. 3

Basketball game-changer

Russell attended McClymonds High School (class of '52). A member of the JV basketball team his junior year, he was cut and then picked up again as an extra (the 16th man on a 15 man team) during his senior year. He barely started since he graduated in the middle of the year. Russell was strongly influenced by his McClymonds coach, George Powles. "George Powles, outside of my father, was the most influential person in my life." 3 He said that it's fortunate Powles was his coach, as Powles was mainly a baseball and football coach, and didn't stop him from doing things that weren't yet part of the game like blocking shots.

Russell went on to the University of San Francisco. He was drafted by the St. Louis Hawks in 1956. He won a gold medal with the US team in the 1956 Olympics, joining the Boston Celtics late that same year. He was the NBA Most Valuable Player for 1957-58. He played with the Celtics from 1956-1969, when the team took 11 championships in 13 years. His style of playing defense, and his teamwork are said to have changed the game, as evidenced in this quote - "His many individual accolades were well deserved, but they were only products of Russell's philosophy of team play." 1

Russell was the first Black NBA coach [playing and coaching at the same time] in 1966, and head coach and general manager of the Seattle SuperSonics from 1973-1977.

Bill Russell takes a stand - again and again

Known for his intelligence on and off the court, his words, actions, and influence have reached beyond the world of sports. He was outspoken against racism as it arose in his life - especially in Boston.

During his life, he often returned to Oakland. 2

Links and References

  1. NBA Bio
  2. Poole, Monte. "Bill Russell needs to be cherished while we still can." Contra Costa Times. March 26, 2013
  3. Home Field Advantage: The City that Changed the Face of Sports by Paul Brekke-Miesner, 2013
  4. Bill Russell on Wikipedia


  • Goudsouzian, Aram (2010). King of the Court: Bill Russell and the Basketball Revolution. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Russell, Bill; McSweeny, William (1966). Go Up for Glory. Coward-McCann.
  • Russell, Bill; Branch, Taylor (1979). Second Wind. Ballantine Books.
  • Russell, Bill; Hilburg, Alan; Faulkner, David (2001). Russell Rules. New American Library.
  • Russell, Bill; Steinberg, Alan (2009). Red and Me: My Coach, My Lifelong Friend. Harper.
  • Taylor, John (2005). The Rivalry: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and the Golden Age of Basketball. New York City: Random House.