Bill Russell’s record speaks for itself, but sometimes the views others hold of his legacy add value.
Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr hailed the Boston Celtics icon for his on- and off-court work last week in an interview with The Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn published Sunday. Kerr began his praise for Russell with a postmodern analysis of a key part of the legendary center’s game: shot blocking.
“I’m too young to have remembered him as a player, so what I know about Bill is what I’ve read about him and what I’ve seen on grainy video,” Kerr said. “One of the things I love about his game from the highlights and from reading about him is that he’s one of the only bigs who would block a shot with the awareness to just keep it, keep possession.
“It’s amazing how many times in the modern game you see guys go up and they have got an easy block and they swat it into the 10th row and flex and yell when it could be a fast break at the other end if they just decided to tip the ball to themselves and go. So I know that just from that alone what a smart player Bill Russell was, and he’s obviously the greatest winner in the history of the NBA.”
Russell helped the Celtics win 11 NBA championships during his 13 seasons with the team, but his participation in the civil rights movement and his philanthropic work made him one of the few athletes to transcend the sports world.
Kerr reserves special acclaim for Russell due to his contributions beyond basketball.
“And then what he did for his country and for society and the African-American community obviously is — it just dwarfs what he accomplished on the court,” Kerr told Washburn. “Being a prominent player in the civil rights movement and taking that leadership, understanding his voice and his power — one of the most important athletes in the history of our country. So, yeah, he’s on the Mount Rushmore, for sure.”
Russell will receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2019 ESPYs on July 10. The recognition undoubtedly will broaden knowledge of Russell’s legacy among the sporting public, but Kerr, whose Warriors currently have their backs against the wall in the NBA Finals, doesn’t need to wait until next month to give Russell his deserved credit.
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