Rejoice, Patriots, Celtics, Red Sox, Bruins fans and everyone in between! The state of Massachusetts is approving mobile sports betting and DraftKings Sportsbook will soon be available for residents. The launch date for the DraftKings Sportsbook App is TBD, but expect it to come soon.
In honor of the Massachusetts launch, we will be reliving some of the biggest sports moments in state history over the next week. Today, we’re focusing on one of the greatest athletes in history, Bill Russell.
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Bill Russell — A Legend Among Legends
13 years. 11 rings.
Five-time NBA MVP. 12-time All-Star.
Dominance on a level that has never been — and likely never will be — replicated.
Bill Russell entered the NBA in 1956, fresh off consecutive NCAA championships at San Francisco. He was drafted with the second overall pick in the NBA Draft by the St. Louis Hawks, but Celtics coach Red Auerbach was determined to get his guy.
Boston and St. Louis agreed to swap Russell for six-time All-Star Ed Macauley and Cliff Hagan. This would become one of the most important trades in the history of basketball.
Auerbach and the Celtics achieved their goal of bringing in Russell, but he didn’t even join the team until December of his rookie season due to Olympic commitments. Once Russell did join the team, he averaged 14.7 points per game and a led the league with 19.6 rebounds per game.
Russell’s first championship with the Celtics was an incredibly entertaining one, as the Celtics won 125-123 in double overtime to clinch the franchise’s first title.
Russell won his first regular season MVP the following year, and Boston made the Finals once again. This time, they fell to the Hawks in six games. That was the last time the Celtics would not win the NBA championship for many, many seasons.
What followed that Finals defeat was a stretch of unmatched superiority. The Celtics won EIGHT straight championships. Russell continued to dominate on the glass over that stretch, regularly averaging well over 20 rebounds per game while racking up consistent regular season and postseason accolades.
In 1966, Auerbach retired. When spanning his long list of former players as candidates to replace him, Tom Heinsohn suggested that Russell was the right man for the job. Auerbach ultimately agreed, and Russell became the first Black head coach in NBA history, while maintaining his role as a player.
Russell won his first title as a player-coach in 1968 against Jerry West and the Los Angeles Lakers, making it his 10th in 12 years. The following season would be his last in the league, as he had grown tired of playing for a variety of reasons.
Russell went out on a high note. After struggling through the regular season, the Celtics pulled off a miraculous run to the 1969 NBA Finals, where they met — shocker — the Lakers again. Boston managed one final upset over a team that boasted Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, winning Game 7 by a score of 108-106 in Los Angeles.
One last championship for the winningest player in the history of team sports. Russell walked away from the game on his own terms as a legend in the city of Boston. He unfortunately passed away in July 2022, but his legacy will live on forever.
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