In the book, Russell wrote that he and Auerbach rarely interacted and did not delve into personal or social issues. Instead, they were connected by basketball, a team that was also, in essence, a family. According to Russell, the patriarch was stubborn, stubborn. Russell’s own headstrong manner, shaped by a place in Boston and in America that Auerbach could never fully understand, formed the basis of their mutual respect.
“That’s where we were so similar,” said Russell, who often emphasized that he was playing for the Celtics and not Boston. But the success of the team has always come first.
That day in Manhattan, Russell shared some of the final guidance he had received during his last visit to Auerbach as he said goodbye. “Look, Russ, this is something important,” Auerbach told him. “When you’re old, don’t fall. Because this is the beginning of the end. So remember: don’t fall!
Russell, who is already 75 years old, apparently knew that in time the weakness would visit him too. Toward the end of our interview, he admitted that he wrote the book because “I also have to remember my mortality.”
As soon as he said those words, he snapped out of his trademark frantic cackle.
Sports greatness fades. Command dynasties crumble. But the presence of Bill Russell in extreme old age did not even flicker. While the current best debate is focused on the Air Jordan versus King James, to contextualize the argument, Russell only needed to show the ring he wore that day in 2007 in the Rookie Transition Program – a gift from the NBA commissioner at the time. David Sterndedicated to all 11 of Russell’s titles.
It remains the surest indicator of a superstar’s claim in a team sport. It’s also one that’s almost guaranteed to never fall.