Russell the Elder

His golf roots; legendary Michael Jordan story

Bill Russell died on Sunday at the age of 88.

The NBA Hall of Famer, considered by many to be the greatest player of all time (and certainly the big man), is best known for winning 11 championships in 13 seasons with the Boston Celtics, including eight straight from 1959 to 1966. Are included. The 6-foot-10 center was a five-time MVP, 12-time All-Star, two-time NCAA champ at the University of San Francisco, and an Olympic gold medalist in 1956. He was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011. ,

However, after his playing career ended, he took up golf.

Speaking with Rex Hoggard of in 2014, just a few months after open-heart surgery, Russell explained how he got started in golf. It was either his first or second All-Star game—he didn’t remember—and he and the other contestants were gifted sets of golf clubs.

However, Russell was not at all keen on breaking his new set.

“I put them in the garage immediately,” said Russell, who didn’t retrieve them for years until he had hung up his basketball shoes.

“When I grew up, I had some time, so I thought, maybe I’ll play golf,” he said. “So, I took the clubs out and they were right-handed. I didn’t even know that at the time.”

For the Record: Champion and Patron, Bill Russell

When he eventually bought himself a left-handed set, Russell worked up his competitive itch in matches against friends. But the quality of golf displayed by those opening fours, Russell acknowledged, wasn’t pretty at all.

“Nobody could play,” he said. “If you scored 101, you won all the money. The high score would be 160.”

Afterwards, Russell played in several Pro-Ams, including the PGA Tour’s annual stop at Pebble Beach, and occasionally accompanied the avid Michael Jordan. A round like this produced one of the best smack-talk stories during the heyday of Jordan and the Bulls—and making the story even better, Jordan, for once, was on the receiving end.

As Russell once said: “I think he’s a great player and I have the utmost respect for him. We were in the middle of the golf course; he had just won the championship. He says, ‘ You know we are going after your record.’ I said, ‘Which one?’ … you know, we won 11, but we won eight straight. I don’t think you’ll live long enough to get one of these.”

Russell the Elder

Russell the Elder

When Russell had surgery to replace a valve in his heart, he was on the golf course almost every day. After the operation, it took months for Russell to get back to play.

“My heart wasn’t very friendly about it,” he said. “However, it hasn’t done much damage. I was never that good anyway.”

He wasn’t good at hardwood either. He was great. all time great.

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