Bill Russell is, objectively, our coolest retired basketball player. He won 11 goddamn titles in 13 seasons and should have won 12; he got injured in '58 and had to sit on the bench while the sad-ass St. Louis Hawks took what was rightfully his. Russell also marched with Dr. King, tormented Lame Nerd Jerry West to the brink of insanity, and called Boston, the city where he played his entire career, "a flea market of racism." This is a guy who played professional sports for 13 years, wore a goatee for almost every one of those years, and pulled that shit off like a motherfucker every second of the day. He is the only athlete in history to manage this impossible feat. He is, undeniably, a great American sports hero. He might be the only true one we have.
And what's even better is that Iron Bill did all this while being mostly sort of eh on offense. Sure, he set screens and hit the rim, but you couldn't throw that dude the ball and expect two to go up or anything. No, Bill built his legend almost entirely on the dark art of defense, using his insane athleticism and ironclad tactical mind to discourage his opponent from going to the rim, breaking their tiny psyches into millions of little pieces in the process. There are stories about Bill allowing someone to get a basket early in the game, only so he could deny them the same basket later, just to let them know that he was a God, and that they would only do what he allowed them to do.
The intangible dominance of his game, along with that laugh and elegantly greying goatee, have given Russell a sort of mystical quality over time. The Great Elderly Wizard of basketball, floating in and out of courtside seats, shaking hands and staring forward with a peaceful presence. The One Enlightened By Ultimate Victory, he who has lived through unimaginable turmoil, on and off the court, and sits in front of us now a still and gentle river.
And so, it is always a thrill to see when The Wilt Chamberlain Archive, a wonderful YouTube channel that collects pre-80's footage of great NBA players, releases a new Bill Russell video, because, people, in this astral realm, our real world of dirt and lava and wood, Bill Russell was not just a mystical master of time and space and human will. Bill Russell was also a problem, and nasty as shit.
Look at this parade of sad men, feeling the full force of Bill's high jump prowess lifting over them, crashing into their sad, unworthy bodies, leaving them splayed and ashamed all over the court.
Witness as Darrall Imhoff's spirit breaks in real time. His head snaps back, his life flashes before his eyes, and he nods in a moment of pure and perfect clarity; the clarity of defeat, of shame, of a fully perfect embarrassment. For the rest of his life, no matter what he does, all he can do is return to the moment when Bill Russell dunked on his ass.
But Darrall went on. He lived a good life, he tried for forget, but...
IT HAPPENED AGAIN. The same collapse, the same eternal shame. It was even worse, this time. He got dunked on twice but it must have felt like a hundred. Shit, it might have BEEN a hundred, there could be a hundred instances of Russell dunking on Imhoff alone, each ending with Imhoff collapsing into a deep on-court depression. We just can't see any of it because they never filmed games back then. It is a tragedy that we only have access to this pair of public humiliations, when there are surely so many more, lost to the tide of time. Think of all the humiliations we missed as Bill Russell served as this poor man's Grim Reaper.
Are you trying to take a charge, dude!? ON BILL RUSSELL!? Bill doesn't play your corny foul drawing games. He will leap over you and jam it home if you try that shit, leaving you fucking ducking for cover, doing whatever you can to keep your head on your shoulder. And yeah, you KNOW your moment of misjudgment is getting captured on still camera forever. Watch that flash go off, then slow it down.
That's you, plunged into darkness, sticking your arm over your face, FOREVER. Taking a charge, Jesus. You should be ashamed of yourself. You belong in this still picture hell.
Oh, does Wilt want some!? Then he can come get some:
Hey, my dude, maybe box out next time, then you might not get doinked in the dome after getting banged on by BIG W.F.R. You also might not go 1-7 against him all-time in playoff series. I'll be fair, though: Wilt, you were the ONLY PERSON to take one from him, in 1967, but you also lost after forming a goddang super team with Jerry West and Elgin Baylor in 1969. That was probably Jerry's fault though, with his chump ass.
IN CONCLUSION: Bill Russell was dope as hell and watching him bang on sad 1960s dudes is the greatest. Basketball is fun. The end.