Basketball great, William Felton Russell (1934-), was born on this day in Monroe, Louisiana and began playing basketball when he was nine years old. An All-American at the University of San Francisco, Russell led his team to Olympic gold in 1956, the same year he joined the Boston Celtics.
"I hated practice," he revealed. "I never minimized, however, the importance of repetition in getting ready for a season. Your craftsmanship comes out of your dedication to your practice."
An agile center who was a celebration of defensive skill, Russell in his 13 seasons led the Celtics to a remarkable 11 NBA championships (1957, 1959-1966, 1968-1969). As the core of the Celtic Dynasty, Russell dominated the boards with shot-blocking and rebounds. Larger-than-life, he was named "Most Valuable Player" five times (1958, 1961-1963, 1965).
"I wanted my career to be such that people would say, 'He won championships,'" he said. "I was a man who played basketball as well as he could."
As player-coach in 1966, Russell became the first African-American to coach a U.S. professional sports team. He retired from play in 1969, then continued his coaching success with the Seattle SuperSonics (1973–1977). In 1975, he became the first African-American elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame.
The 6-foot-10 star said, "I found a great thrill in using my craft as fully as I could. But it was always about winning. I loved those times when a situation looked absolutely hopeless and yet I could still do something to turn things around."
In 1980, he was declared the "Greatest Player in the History of the NBA" by the Professional Basketball Writers Association of America and in May 1999, Sports Illustrated called him "the greatest team player on the greatest team ever."
"Craftsmanship and quality are never an accident. Craftsmanship is the result of sincere effort, principled intentions, intelligent direction, and skillful execution," he wrote in Russell Rules (2002).
Hang in there and show them what you're made of.