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Highlights on Bill Russell | News channel 3-12

CNN Editorial Research

Here’s a look at the life of Hall of Fame center Bill Russell who played with the Boston Celtics.


Date of Birth: February 12, 1934

Place of birth: Monroe, Louisiana

Birth name: William Felton Russel

Dad: Charles Russell

Mother: Katie (King) Russell

Marriages: Jeannine Fiorito (2016-present); Marilyn Nault (1996-January 2009, her death); Dorothy “Didi” Anstett (1977-1980, divorced); Rose Swisher (1956-1973, divorced)

Children: with Rose Swisher: Karen, William Jr. “Buddha” and Jacob

Education: University of San Francisco, BA, 1956

Other facts

Six-foot-nine center known for his defense and his ability to block shots.

Won 11 NBA championships during his 13 years with the Boston Celtics in 1957, 1959-66 and 1968-69.

Five-time NBA Most Valuable Player in 1958, 1961-63 and 1965.

Twelve-time NBA All-Star from 1958 to 1969 and All-Star MVP in 1963.

Served as a commentator for televised basketball games between his coaching jobs.

Founder and Distinguished Board Member of MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership.

Younger brother of playwright Charlie L. Russell.


1955 and 1956 – Led the San Francisco Dons to consecutive NCAA basketball championships and an undefeated season in 1956.

April 29, 1956 – Selected second overall in the NBA Draft by the St. Louis Hawks, then traded to the Boston Celtics.

November 1956 – Captain of the USA men’s basketball team that won gold at the Melbourne Olympics.

December 1956-1969 – Center with the Boston Celtics.

1966-1969 – Serves as player-coach for the Boston Celtics, making him the first African-American head coach in the NBA.

1973-1977 – Head coach and general manager of the Seattle SuperSonics.

1975 – Russell was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame but did not attend the ceremony.

November 1987-1988 – Sacramento Kings head coach.

2001 – A memoir/motivational book, “Russell Rules: 11 Lessons on Leadership from the Twentieth Century’s Greatest Winner”, is published.

February 2009 – NBA Commissioner David Stern announces that the Finals MVP trophy will be renamed the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award.

February 2011 – Receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

October 2011 – Joins other gamers in a class action lawsuit against the NCAA, Electronic Arts and the Collegiate Licensing Company for using their likeness in a video game without permission or compensation.

October 16, 2013 – Is arrested for bringing a loaded .38 caliber Smith & Wesson handgun to Sea-Tac International Airport in Seattle. He receives a state citation and is released.

November 1, 2013 – A bronze statue of Russell is unveiled in Boston’s City Hall Square. The statue is erected by the Bill Russell Legacy Project, which also developed the Bill Russell Mentoring Grant Program.

July 17, 2014 – Is briefly hospitalized after collapsing on stage during a speech near Lake Tahoe, Nevada. Celtics officials later said Russell was feeling better and should return to Seattle the same day.

August 8, 2014 – A federal judge rules in favor of Russell and other college athletes who have sued to end NCAA control over the rights to names, images and likenesses of college athletes.

July 2015 – A federal judge approves the final $60 million settlement stemming from lawsuits involving Russell and other college athletes. The Collegiate Licensing Company and Electronic Arts case is settled for $40 million and the NCAA case is settled for $20 million, as agreed in 2014.

May 18, 2018 – Is taken to hospital from his home in Seattle due to dehydration. Russell is released the next day.

November 15, 2019 – In a private ceremony, accepts his 1975 Basketball Hall of Fame ring. Russell tweets that he “refused to be the 1st black player” to have this honor and mentions Chuck Cooper who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in September 2019.

September 12, 2021 – Is inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a coach. “His overall record as an NBA head coach was 341-290 in the regular season and 34-27 in the playoffs.”

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