"There's neat stuff happening over at Sundance these days."BuzzFeed
Iconoclasts
A SundanceTV Original Series
Starring an unprecedented roster of innovators

Iconoclasts

Christy Turlington Burns and Tory Burch have more in common than fashion. Find out how both have used their position and influence to empower women.

Feature Menu

Cast Members

Bill Russell

icono_s1_bill_russel_cast

"The 20th Century's Greatest Winner" Bill Russell has lived a lifetime of achievements. He has been recognized by HBO Sports as the "greatest winner of the 20th century." Sports Illustrated deemed Russell the "greatest team player on the greatest team of all time."

The Basketball Writers of America honored him by electing him "the greatest player in NBA history."Legendary UCLA coach John Wooden called Bill "the most important player ever in either the collegiate or professional ranks."

Red Auerbach, basketball's greatest coach said of Russell, "He is the smartest player ever. His skills were unparalleled. He is supremely intelligent, the fiercest player and proudest man I have ever seen."

And Frank DeFord, America's greatest living sports journalist said of Russell, "he didn't conform but let his independent thinking lead, inspire and motivate generations. Bill Russell is more than basketball's greatest innovator...he defines a world class athlete and person."

The New York Times called Bill Russell, "the Jackie Robinson of coaching" as he was the first African-American head coach in any professional sport. No one in any sport anywhere in the world has equaled the achievements of professional basketball's Bill Russell and his Boston Celtics.

As the leader of his team, his record speaks of consistency, winning an unprecedented 18 championships in 21 years of playing basketball. Besides leading the Boston Celtics, "the greatest team of the 20th century" to an extraordinary record of 11 world championships in 13 years and eight NBA championships in a row, Bill's high school team won three championships and he led the University of San Francisco to a divisional championship and two national championships, winning 55 straight games. In 1956 Bill proudly captained the U.S. Olympic basketball team to a gold medal.

Bill Russell and his teammates created the modern game of basketball. As a player and as a coach Bill revolutionized the game of basketball by playing defense like his life depended on it. His breakthrough approach to defense was predicated on the principle of making defense an offensive part of the game. Offensively he forever changed the game by transforming the entire tempo of the sport and introducing the concept of transition. No player in history could inflict his will on a game more effectively than Bill Russell.

Bill was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1973. He was chosen as the league's most valuable player five times (when the players voted for the MVP) and elected 12 times to the NBA All-Star team .

His record of innovation reached beyond his own game. In 1967 he was chosen as head coach of the Boston Celtics. Two of his world championships came as a head coach. (He is the only player/coach in history in any sport to win a world championship WITHOUT an assistant coach). In 1998 he was voted "one of the NBA's 50 greatest players."

Bill Russell made leadership an art...winning a mission...and teamwork the key to success.

Bill knows the qualities and values that it takes for a team to win. His ability to raise the level of his teammates' game, his competitiveness, his consistency, his understanding of collaboration and teamwork are the qualities of a true champion.

Less known about Bill is that he was the first professional athlete to host "Saturday Night Live." Bill is also credited with playing another major role in bringing the NBA into the modern era when he agreed to become the commentator analyst in 1980 as the NBA signed its first major network contract with CBS and went to prime time.

Bill is also the author of three award-winning best sellers. Go Up For Glory and Second Wind. His most recent book, Russell Rules...11 Lessons in Leadership from the Greatest Winner of the Twentieth Century was published in 2002 and was on the New York Times business best-seller list for twelve weeks.

Russell has also been an aggressive advocate for civil rights, equality and an inclusive culture. He was the first major American sports icon to actively support the civil rights movement and his leadership brought other great athletes into the struggle for equality. He never failed to speak his mind and his intelligence and compassion established him as one of America's most important civil rights leaders. By marching with Dr. King and participating in a number of historic events in the South and other regions of the U.S. Bill Russell redefined the role of athletes in important national issues.

A sought after mentor, Russell is active on the Board of Directors of the National Mentoring Partnership.Bill truly defines the word champion because of his success as a talent and as a human being. Few individuals are admired for their integrity, principles, compassion, intellect and wisdom on and off their court, as much as Bill Russell.

Books by Bill Russell:

Go Up For Glory, Second Wind, Russell Rules...11 Lessons in Leadership from the Greatest Winner of the Twentieth Century