The Independent Student Newspaper of Ashoka University

NBA Legends: Bill Russell’s transformation of the game

Taking a look at one of the greatest players in basketball history and his revolution of the game we love.

Avneesh Garimella, Batch of 2019

Bill Russell dominating with his blocking skills

Bill Russell is definitely one of the greatest players to have played in the NBA. After all, the NBA Final’s MVP trophy cannot be named after just any player. Bill Russell gave much to the game of basketball, both on and off the court which impacted the game heavily and revolutionized the NBA forever.

The first contribution Russel made was to the game of basketball on the court itself. Before Russell’s time, defence in the NBA was played quite differently. Players were encouraged to plant their feet on the ground and not jump when another player is going for a shot, lest you give away a foul. Russell disagreed with this form, he spent hours studying other player’s movements and game to understand how best to make sure he could shut his opponent down. He incorporated the jump into his defence, which allowed him to surprise the opponents and bring in a new aspect into the game. Initially admonished by his coaches for trying something so unorthodox, Russell fought against all odds and proved everyone wrong by becoming the best defensive player in the college basketball circuit while also averaging the highest number of blocks in history until then.

The second contribution that Bill Russell made not only changed the game but the history of Basketball. The period Russell was active in the NBA was also a time of huge turmoil in the United States due to the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King Jr. Bill Russell heavily supported this movement as racism heavily impacted his career in sports as well as his personal life. While being an exceptional player in high school, Bill was offered only one college scholarship because of his race. He ended up playing for University of San Francisco as it was the only college to offer him a scholarship. Racism continued to impact him throughout his basketball career. In Bill’s 3rd year of college, for instance, despite averaging 20 points and 20 rebounds a game, and being the only player in college blocking shots as well as winning the National Championship, he was still not awarded Player of the Year in Northern California.

When Bill Russell was drafted in 1956 there were a total of 15 black players in the NBA. This was because there was a cap on the number of black players allowed in each team as well as the general racism in society, that made it difficult for black athletes to enter the sport. Bill Russell often spoke out against this rule of having limited black players in each team and the result was that by the time Bill Russell retired from the NBA in 1969, a majority of the league consisted of black players.

On and off the court, Bill Russell made massive contributions to the game of basketball and the NBA which would not make it strange to tout him as one of the greatest players of all time. No other player in history has probably contributed so much to the game as a whole, and it is only right to have the NBA Finals MVP trophy named after him to have his name set in the annals of basketball history.

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