Years as a Celtic: 1956-1969
Key Achievements: 11-time NBA champion, five-time NBA MVP, 12-time All-Star, 3/8/0-time All-NBA, one-time All-Defensive, No. 6 jersey retired
The Boston Celtics are a team that has won more championships (17) than any other NBA franchise, and throughout their storied history they have had a plethora of superstars to choose from.
The one that sticks out to me is Bill Russell, for the reasons below.
Oh boy, I could talk about Bill Russell all day. Actually, if you don't mind, I think I will.
First off, I'm a believer in Russ' side in regards to the much-heralded debate between him and Wilt Chamberlain.
Russell is still the greatest champion in the history of professional sports and perhaps the game's best defensive force ever. If they had started making All-Defensive teams before his final year, he would have undoubtedly had at least 10 or 11 selections.
Bill Russell without a doubt changed the game of basketball and is the most under-appreciated player in the history of the association.
Instead of putting up Wilt-like offensive numbers, he opted to play the less traveled and less popular route: defense. He was arguably the best frontcourt defender that the NBA has ever seen and let his teammates, who were more than able themselves, do the majority of the scoring.
The difference between Russell and a guy like Wilt (yes, it's going to become a Simmons-like debate here) is that Russell wanted to win and Wilt wanted to pad his stats. I'm not in any way ripping Wilt, but the truth is that he wasn't the best teammate in the history of basketball; that title belongs to Bill Russell.
In a time where segregation was at an NBA all-time high, Russell rose to the occasion and became the most polarizing figure in the game. When he was refused services in cities around the country, Russell chose not to fight, but to let his game do the talking.
Another thing that separates Russell from the greatest had to do with his stellar basketball IQ. Russ cared and knew more about the game than anybody, Red Auerbach (his coach) included. Red, while being a phenomenal coach, was additionally a friend of Bill's, and their friendship is still one of the sport's most desirable.
The funny thing is that I haven't even mentioned his championships yet. For any of you who have been living under a rock, Bill Russell had 11 titles in 13 years.
Words can't even begin to describe how important he was to the Boston Celtics. He has meant more, even 40-plus years after retiring, to his respective franchise than any player not named Michael Jordan.
He averaged 15 points, 22.5 rebounds and better than four assists per game during his time as a legendary Celtic—but even those numbers don't tell the full story of his ultimate impact on the game.
He didn't need to be Wilt and score 100 points or have a nickname because, in all honesty, he was that much greater.
Bill Russell is the single biggest pioneer in the history of basketball.