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Re: Bird vs Russell

Josh Ozersky wrote:
> Maybe it would help if some of you veteran fans described what
> Russell's game was like.  I've seen footage of him teaching defense,
> but he was already retired.  Is it true that he waited until a guy
> shot to leave his feet?  What was he like on offense?  Is there
> anybody today who reminds you of parts of his game?  How could
> somebody get 55 rebounds in a game?    What was his passing like?
> (this is one I've always wondered about)
> Let's hear some stories!
> Josh
Guess I qualify as a "veteran fan"--I began following the NBA in the
mid-60s--so here are some stories.

I saw both Russell and Bird play in person dozens of times, and on TV a
zillion times.  Larry is a Legend, but Russ was the supreme winner of
all time.  He won titles in college (2), the Olympics and the pros (11
of 13).  He never lost a Game 7.  He wasn't a scorer, but in the 7th
game of the '62 finals he had 30 pts., 40 rebs.  He was the first agile
big man, who could outquick the strong guys and outjump the quick guys
(I have a picture of him blocking Wilt's finger-roll; the ball is 6
inches out of Wilt's hand and Russ is stretched completely vertical). 
Russ was an intelligent intimidator who excelled in psyching out the

Although I grew up in Brooklyn, I was a Celtics fan from the beginning,
and would go to the old Madison Square Garden on W. 50th St. whenever
Boston came in.  I distinctly remember a game in the mid-60s where the
Knicks led by 14 with 8 minutes left when the NY coach inserted 12th man
Dave Deutsch.  Ah, but it wasn't garbage time yet.  The Celts made a big
comeback, and with seconds left Russell (!) made a sweeping hook from
the left of the lane to win it.

In 1968, I enrolled at Boston Univ., in large part because it's in
Boston (hey, I had to be somewhere).  It was 1968-69, Russell's last
season, and tickets were plentiful.  I went to probably 20 reg. season
games and every playoff game.

The Celts were old that season--Russ, Sam, Bailey Howell were all on
their last legs--and other teams were on the rise.  The Bullets had
ROY/MVP Wes Unseld; Philly had Cunningham, Greer and Chet Walker; NY had
just traded for DeBusschere and was one year away from winning a title;
and the Lakers had traded for Wilt and still had West and Baylor at
their peak.  The Celts finished 4th in the east at 48-34, they did not
have the homecourt in any series, and everyone outside Boston thought
the dynasty was dead.

But Russ (as player-coach) logged more minutes that season than a young
Havlicek, and averaged 20 reb/game.  The Celts beat Philly in five (with
three road wins), NY in six (with two one-point victories), and against
the Lakers (the big favorite with their Big Three) came back from an 0-2
deficit and won game 7 *in LA.*

It's funny--Jerry West was known as "Mr. Clutch," but he never got past
the Celts.  Larry, Magic, Michael, Kareem, Mikan were some of the
biggest winners in NBA history.  But NO ONE knew how to win like Bill
Mike Dynon
North Kingstown, RI

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