With the 2nd overall pick in the 1st round of the 1956 NBA Draft, the St. Louis Hawks selected Bill Russell from the University of San Francisco. Bill Russell has one true rookie card and if that one is out of your price range his second card may be an affordable option.
The Dominance of Bill Russell
William Felton Russell holds the title of Most Winningest Player in basketball history. First, he led his alma mater at the University of San Francisco to 2 NCAA Championships in 1955 and 1956.
Secondly, he then went on to the 1956 Summer Olympics as captain of the Men’s Basketball Team dominated the Olympics and beat Russia for the Gold Medal. Finally, he started his NBA career where he and the Boston Celtics went on to win 11 NBA Championships!
Bill Russell excelled in shot-blocking and man-to-man defense, one can actually attribute the success of the Celtics due to those facts. But his niche was in his rebounding ability.
Remarkably, for 12 consecutive seasons, he had over 1000 rebounds per season for a career total of 21,620. Divide that by a 13-year playing career and that’s a staggering average of 1,663 rebounds per season!
Similar to Jackie Robinson, Russell was the first African-American player to achieve the status of ‘Superstar’ in the NBA.
Bill Russell Acknowledged for His Greatness
Through the 1966-69 seasons, he served as player/coach making him the first African American NBA Coach as well. For his accomplishments on and off the court, Former President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.
Bill Russell was declared “The Greatest Player in the History of the NBA” by the Professional Basketball Writers Association of America in 1980. Russell made his teammates better players and that eventually trickled down to the league.
He raised the bar for defensive play and changed how the game was played because of it. Many speak of his intensely competitive nature and his desire to win.
- Bill Russell went to high school with Baseball Hall of Famer Frank Robinson.
- Hosted Saturday Night Live on November 3, 1979.
- Wrote a book in 1979 titled, Second Wind.
- In 2009 the NBA renamed the Finals MVP Award to the ‘Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP Award.’
Career Stats & Accomplishments
According to Baseball-Reference.com Bill Russell played in 963 games and averaged 15.1 points, 22.5 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game.
- 12x All-Star
- 4x Total Rebounds Champion
- 11x NBA Champion
- 11x All-NBA
- 5x MVP
Bill Russell True Rookie Card:
1957-58 Topps, #77 (RC)
Bill Russell’s first appearance on cardboard is out of the 1957-58 Topps and is considered his only rookie card. The complete set of 80 cards was distributed in 5-cent packs. A very large portion of this set, 47 to be exact, are considered rookie cards.
The photo on this card is not the greatest but I like the dual-colored ribbon on the bottom which gives us his name and team. The back of the card I absolutely love! Pure vintage here folks. Check out the guy standing next to the ruler giving us Bill Russell’s height.
Also, the backboard image with the card number inside of it on the upper left-hand corner of the card is epic! I really miss these types of card backs. This was the first basketball set released by Topps and the only one until 1969.
1961-62 Fleer, #38 (PRT)
Bill Russell has a second mainstream card is out of the 1961-62 Fleer and is a bit easier on the wallet and easier to find. Although not considered an RC, to collectors this one is the next best thing because there was a three-year void (1958-1960) in which zero basketball sets were released.
This card screams vintage! Fantastic, bold colors, and check out that Boston Celtic logo man. The card back is not as eye-appealing as the Topps rookie card but does give us a player bio, commentary, and stats.
Happy Collecting Collectors,
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