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William Felton Russell (12 February 1934 – 31 July 2022) was a former U.S. basketball player of the Boston Celtics, remembered for his central role in the Celtics dynasty that won eleven NBA championships in thirteen seasons.
- He told me he couldn't wait for the basketball season to end, so he could go back to baseball and get out of shape.
- On former Celtic teammate Gene Conley, who doubled as a major league pitcher; as quoted in "Morning Briefing: Craig Never Asked Zimmer, but He Got the Plane Truth" by Harley Tinkham, in The Los Angeles Times (April 29, 1990)
- "What do you think of the Chicago Bulls winning three in a row?" -- Russell: "Not much."
- In perspective, Russell won eight times in a row with the Celtics.
I'm Not Involved Anymore (1969)
- I'm a pretty direct man. You say something I like, I'll tell you so; you say something I don't like, I'll tell you also. A diplomat I'm not. So I'll tell you right out that there are no secret or hidden or financial or philosophical reasons behind this. I just don't feel like playing anymore. As for coaching — that prime incubator of ulcers — no, thank you. I don't want to coach anymore, either. I never considered myself primarily a coach, anyway. Anytime I was ever around a group of coaches I'd feel nervous — all that nonsense about how to "handle" kids, how to "motivate" them! I was a player. Now I'm not a player or a coach anymore.
- If you're really looking for a reason why I feel I've played enough, I'll tell you this. There are professionals and there are mercenaries in sports. The difference between them is that the professional is involved. I was never a mercenary. If I continued to play, I'd become a mercenary because I'm not involved anymore.
I have a year to go on my contract with the Celtics. It's one of the most lucrative in sports, and I was very happy with it. A couple of my friends think I should at least stick out that year because of the money. Believe me, I wouldn't mind having all that money. But I'm not going to play basketball for money. I've been paid to play, of course, but I played for a lot of other reasons, too.
- I played because I enjoyed it — but there's more to it than that. I played because I was dedicated to being the best. I was part of a team, and I dedicated myself to making that team the best. To me, one of the most beautiful things to see is a group of men coordinating their efforts toward a common goal — alternately subordinating and asserting themselves to achieve real teamwork in action. I tried to do that — we all tried to do that — on the Celtics. I think we succeeded. Often, in my mind's eye, I stood off and watched that effort. I found it beautiful to watch. It's just as beautiful to watch in things other than sports.
Being part of that effort on the Celtics was very important to me. It helped me develop and grow, and I think it has helped prepare me for something other than playing basketball. But so far as the game is concerned, I've lost my competitive urges. If I went out to play now, the other guys would know I didn't really care. That's no way to play — it's no way to do anything.
- People didn't give us credit for being as good as we were last season. Personally, I think we won because we had the best team in the league. Some guys talked about all the stars on the other teams, and they quote statistics to show other teams were better. Let's talk about statistics. The important statistics in basketball are supposed to be points scored, rebounds and assists. But nobody keeps statistics on other important things — the good fake you make that helps your teammate score; the bad pass you force the other team to make; the good long pass you make that sets up another pass that sets up another pass that leads to a score; the way you recognize when one of your teammates has a hot hand that night and you give up your own shot so he can take it. All of those things. Those were some of the things we excelled in that you won't find in the statistics. There was only one statistic that was important to us — won and lost.
- Something everybody else but Bill Russell excelled in was giving the coach good advice. I made the decisions, but I listened an awful lot. Sometimes in practice the other guys would talk for half an hour and I wouldn't say a word. I encouraged them to tell me what they thought.
- Nobody can write a story about the Celtics and not talk about Red Auerbach. Much of my success as a professional is a result of the way he first approached me. A lot of guys said I'd never make it because I couldn't shoot. My first day with Red he told me right out that he didn't care if I never scored a point. He said they had the guys on the Celtics who could score. What he wanted from me was defense and rebounding. That suited me fine. He and I had one big thing in common — the will to win. When he appointed me coach he just said. "The job is yours." He never put pressure on me. He never even came to practice unless I invited him. Of course, I did — often. I would have been crazy not to take advantage of one of the smartest guys the game has seen. In moments of weakness, I almost like Red — a little.
Quotes about Russell
- How much does that guy make a year? It would be to our advantage if we paid him off for five years to get away from us in the rest of this series.
- Hall-of-Fame player Dolph Schayes; 
- [The sound of Russell throwing up] is a welcome sound, too, because it means he's keyed up for the game, and around the locker room we grin and say, 'Man, we're going to be all right tonight.'
- Coach and former Celtics player John Havlicek
- Tony DiNozzo: William Felton Russell, 5-time MVP, greatest basketball champion ever. He used to get so nervous, so pumped, he had to throw up before every game... One night, the Celtics take the court. It's a big game, huge. Red's watching them warm up from the sidelines, but something's not right. He can tell, not clicking. He clears the floor, takes them all back down to the locker room. Why? Because Russell didn't throw up. You know what Red says next?
Leroy Jethro Gibbs: "Get in there and puke, we've got a game to win."
- NCIS, Episode 6.08, "Cloak" (2008)