Bill Felton Russell is one of the most successful and celebrated athletes in the sport’s history of North America and one of the best players in the history of the National Basketball League.
Bill is among those players who got success in the beginning phase of his career. However, he did not have to wait long to get his name and fame.
In his thirteen years long Career, Bill was awarded NBA Most Valuable Player five times. He also holds the title of the most championship won by an athlete in North America.
With an average of 19 points in every game, he is considered one of the legends in basketball history.
Today, we discuss the life of Bill; apart from his career, we will discuss his personal life, childhood, net worth, and many more.
But before we proceed, let us have an instant glance at the quick facts.
|Full Name||Bill Felton Russell|
|Birth Date||February 12, 1934|
|Birth Place||Monroe, Louisiana, United States|
|Famous As||Bill Russell|
|Age||88 Years Old|
|Father’s Name||Charles Russell|
|Mother’s Name||Katie Russell|
|Siblings||Charles L. Russell|
|Height||6 ft. 10 inches (2.08 m)|
|Weight||98 kg (215 lbs)|
|Profession||Professional Basketball Player|
|Career Earnings||$10 Million|
|Merch||Paperback (Go Up for Glory) (Bill Russell: A Biography)|
|Social Media||Instagram, Twitter|
|Last Update||June 2022|
Bill Russell: Early Life and Education
It was one cold day of 1934 and the month of love when Bill was born. He was born to Charles and Katie Russell.
He had a tough childhood and often became the victim of racism like every other black would be treated at that time.
His father was once placed at gunpoint and given a death threat. And about Katie, even a police officer bullied her just for being black. So, to get a better life, the Russell family moved to California when Bill was eight years old.
After shifting to California, the Russell family had to go through extreme poverty. Bill spent his whole childhood living in public housing projects.
Later, Charles became a truck driver to earn something for his family. But just when they thought their condition would improve, the Russell family received a major emotional blow.
Bill’s mother passed away suddenly; at that time, Bill was only twelve years old. It was tough for Bill to digest that his mother was no more as he was closer to his mother than his father.
So, to take care of his semi orphaned kid, Charles left his work as a truck driver and became a steelworker.
Bills’ Basketball Journey
Even though Russell’s were poor, Charles sent Bill to school, where Bill was introduced to basketball for the first time.
As Bill was tall, had long legs and hands, could jump high, and run well, he was perfect for basketball.
But the problem arises when, even though he got every physical attribute to be a great basketball player, he could understand the game and initially struggled to develop basketball skills.
As a result, he was cut from Herbert Hoover Junior High School’s team. Unfortunately, the same incident was repeated in McClymonds High School, and he was almost cut off from the team.
But George Powles, coach of McClymonds, saw raw athletic capabilities of Bill and thought of giving him a chance. And this incident motivated Bill and gave him hope.
Soon after so much hard work, Bill became famous for his unusual defense techniques. When Russell was on an All-Star tour for California High School, he used to study and memorize other players’ moves.
Bill Russell: Career
At first, Bill was ignored by all the recruiters, but Hal DeJio of the University of San Francisco decided to give Bill a chance after seeing him play in a high school game.
Even though Hall was not impressed by Bill’s performance, he sensed Bill’s dedication to the game and offered him a full scholarship that Bill accepted.
At that point, Bill realized that basketball could only be the medium to escape from poverty and sword himself to be the best someday.
But it was not easy; Bill and his black teammates often became targets of racism. The hotel refused to keep Bill and his black friends there when they were in the tournament.
As a result, they had to camp out in the college dorm. But, as it is said, there is always good in bad; that is what happened with Bill. Their worst experience became the best moment for the team, and everyone bonded well.
In Bill’s Junior year, his team won twenty-eight games out of twenty-nine games. He even won the National Championship and became the MVP in the final four.
With Russells’ extraordinary performance, USF won NCAA Championship twice. At the end of his university career, Bill made an average of 20.7 points per game.
Track and Field
Bill has also represented his university in track and field games. Since he had long legs and hands and could jump, he was the best person to represent USF.
Besides, in 1956, he was also ranked as the #7 best jumper globally.
By 1956 Russell had already proved to be the finest basketball player in the country. Red Auerbach, who happed to be Boston Celtics’ coach at that time, wanted Bill in his team.
Red traded some of the best players of Boston to bring Russell into his team. At that time, the deal made, Rochester Royals would trade Bill if Boston gave them their two best players, Ed Macauley and Cliff Hagan of Boston.
Surprisingly, Red traded his two best players to acquire Bill in his team. Hence, this is how Bill got drafted in Boston Celtics, and thus, this draft day is considered one of the most important trades in North American sports history.
After Bill was drafted, he could not join Celtics for the first half of the season as he had commitments to play in Olympics.
But as he returned in December, he played forty-eight games with an average of 14 points per game. Bill’s first game was against St. Louis Hawks, led by Bob Pettit.
Russell was the best defender on the team, and whenever they needed help, they would shout “Hey, Bill!” and Bill would quickly come to the rescue.
At that time, Celtics allowed their players to play hard because they knew Bill would be there if any feud arose. So, let us say Bill was the Celtics’ ultimate warrior or kind of superhero for them, always ready to rescue.
As a result, Boston won forty-four seasons in 1957, the second-best Bostons’ record after 1947.
First NBA Victory and Success
But all these incidents portray Bill as a negative character. Once, Russell punched Ray Felix and was fined $25. But the actual story behind that was Red permitted Bill to take matters into his hand after constantly being provoked by Felix.
With Bill’s great support and Bob Pettit’s leadership, the Celtics won NBA Championship for the first time in their franchise’s history.
Then, in his second season, Bill and his team won fourteen consecutive matches. Bill had an average of 16.6 per game.
Then, with some great gameplay, Celtics defeated their All-time rival Hawks and regained the NBA Championship again after defeating Minneapolis Lakers in the finals. And after this win, Boston broke the NBA record by winning all fifty-two games.
The Later Career
Bill was winning every game and creating records after records. He even defeated Wilt Chamberlain, who happened to be the best player of Philadelphia Warriors.
From 1959 to 1966, Bill and his team, Boston Celtics, won the NBA Championship for eight years straight.
Later in 1967, when Red decided to retire, he had to put someone in his head coach position. Red made three choices, but none were fixed; as a result, Red insisted Bill be the head coach of his team.
For the first time in NBA history, a person from a black ethnic group became a head coach. But Bill was a player and not trained enough to be a head coach; as a result, the team lost their eight years-long streaks.
Russell’s game was slowly declining, but he has an average of 12 points per game even in his thirties. At one point, Boston was losing every match, and everyone thought it was an end or Celtics.
But Boston proved everyone wrong and came back with a bang, and no team in the history of the NBA had made such a return after a 3-1 deficit.
But in 1968, after the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, Bill was devastated and no longer wanted to play for the USA. After that incident, Bill’s game degraded, and Boston continuously lost the match.
Rusell, in his last NBA match, won his eleventh NBA Championship. And after some days, Boston organized a celebration because Boston won after such a long time.
More than 30,000 people were there to appreciate the team, but Bill was not present at that celebration. He then cut every tie with the Celtics and ended his NBA Career.
After Retiring from NBA
Bill worked as a commentator for ABC Sports. Besides, he did not attend any event in his honor, whether it was being inducted to the Hall of Fame or his jersey retirement day. Furthermore, he also worked as a coach for Seattle SuperSonics and Sacramento Kings.
Honors and Accolades
- Eleven times NBA champion
- Five times NBA Most Valuable Player
- NBA All-Star, twelve times
- NBA All-Star Game MVP in 1963
- All-NBA First Team, thrice
- Eight Times All-NBA Second Team
- NBA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019 (Bill was also present in that award show)
- Statue of Bill Russell installed in Bostan Celtics Hall
- Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011
Bill Russell: Net Worth
Bill spent thirteen years of his life with the Celtics; no doubt he had earned a good amount of money from his career.
It is expected that Bill has a net worth of $10 million. When Russell was at the peak of his career, he used to earn $100k a year, which was the highest amount of money any NBA player had ever received at that time.
In his rookie year, he was signed for $24k, from $24k to 100k Bill had walked a long way with Celtics.
Apart from that, Bill lives in a mansion worth $2.6 million, located in 4,250 sq ft and has 5 bedrooms and 3.25 bathrooms.
In 2021 Bill even auctioned all the awards and honors he received in thirteen years of his career, and from that auction, he earned $5 million in total.
Bill Russell: Personal Life
Bill’s life has not been as good as his career, and his love life has surely been a mess. With two unsuccessful marriages.
First, he married his high school sweetheart Rose Swisher in 1956. With Swisher, he even has three kids, but due to some differences, they both broke up in 1973.
He again married Dorothy Anstett, who happened to be Miss USA, in 1968. In 1980 after three years of marriage, Bill divorced Dorothy.
In 1996, Bill finally got the love of his life, Marilyn Nault. Still, unfortunately, this union did not last, but this time not because of divorce but because of the inevitable phenomenon, the death of Nault in 2009.
Today, he is happily married to Jeannine Russell, and they are living their best life together.
Bill Russell: Controversy
Russells’ life is all about controversy, and it still is unknown if he follows controversy or controversy follows him. Jokes apart, Bill has always been in controversy because of his controversial statements.
Bill always felt he was dominated all the time just because he was black. In many events, he spoke in favor of black and how they are being mistreated.
Bill did not even attend Boston’s eleventh NBA victory ceremony, which field the news of him being upset with Boston. However, even after many years, things are still not right between Boston and Bill.
In 2013, Bill again made headlines after being arrested for carrying loaded gum in Seattle International Airport. Even though he was a licensed gun holder, he was penalized $5000 in violation of civil law, as bringing a gun in a public place violates the law.
Apart from that, Bill has always been in the headlines for his rude behavior with fans. For example, he never gave fans an autograph, which negatively portrayed him towards fans.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is Bill Russell doing these days?
Bill is 88 years old at the time of writing, and he is enjoying his retirement life like every 88-year-old would do.