Bill russell kings

1956 NBA draft

Outside the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968, a 26-year-old minister named Jesse Jackson was leading a rehearsal of gospel songs by members of his Operation Breadbasket. Near the end of the rehearsal, one of its participants, Rev. Billy Kyles, left to go knock at Room 306. Its famous guest was a man prone to lateness and his presence was expected at a six o’clock dinner before a mass meeting later that night. Kyles was hoping to ensure that he would be on time for both events.

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Bill Russell was not the first African American to play professional basketball, but he was its first black superstar. From the moment he stepped onto the court of the Boston Garden in 1956, Russell began to transform the sport in a fundamental way, making him, more than any of his contemporaries, the Jackie Robinson of basketball.

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Before the 1965-66 season, Auerbach announced that he would retire from coaching to focus on his general manager responsibilities. So after Boston defeated the Los Angeles Lakers, 95-93, in Game 7 of the NBA Finals for Auerbach’s ninth title, he stepped down. Russell agreed to become coach on April 16, 1966.

Bill Russell

The game did not come easily to Bill Russell. Although he eventually grew to be more than six feet ten inches tall, he struggled at first to find his footing on the hardwood. He was dropped from his junior high school team, and barely made the junior varsity when he entered McClymonds High School in Oakland. A left-hander, he created a unique, innovative style of defensive play, jumping to block shots in a way that had never been seen before.

Bill russell kings

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“Get down here,” Charles Evers, Medgar’s older brother, said to Boston’s superstar. “And we’ll open one of the playgrounds and we’ll have the first integrated basketball camp in Mississippi.” Russell did. With the Ku Klux Klan (including Evers’ killer, Byron De La Beckwith) following his every step, and with Charles barely sleeping while holding a rifle at Russell’s motel door for protection, Russell followed through on his promise.

Bill russell kings

Bill Russell’s middle finger was back in action at summer league

Bill Russell’s intensity on the court was without parallel. After patrolling the parquet for 13 years, the Celtics legend amassed 11 championship rings — one for each finger and an extra to spare. At the NBA summer league in Las Vegas, Russell used one of those fingers to show that spirit hasn’t changed.

Bill russell kings

At March on Washington anniversary, Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell gives speech, says Martin Luther King Jr. invited him to participate 50 years ago (video)

"I thank you for being here and (want) to encourage you, young and old, men and women, to understand that progress can only be measured by how far we have to go. I want to thank you for letting me speak to you and to encourage you, as we used to say in the projects, keep on keeping on."

Bill russell kings

Caution: A reminder there is a NSFW gesture here

It seems odd and downright funny that an 84-year-old would casually flip the bird. This, however, is not the first or second time that Russell’s middle finger was caught on camera. A post by Chauncey Billups last February shows him and Russell posing for the camera.