Bill Russell received a ring from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame recently in a small ceremony in Southern California, a long overdue tribute that sparks obvious questions and complicated answers.
Why didn’t he have a Hall of Fame ring in the first place? Has something changed? What was the ceremony like? Who all was there? Where were all the reporters? Who presented it to him? How did Mr. Russell react?
The details are hard to come by, but they’re all about people in the present doing what they can to acknowledge mistakes of the past.
Ann Meyers Drysdale and Jerry Colangelo help provide context. Alonzo Mourning adds gravitas. And Gary Payton is Gary Payton.
And they’ve come together to make sure Bill Russell knows how much we all appreciate everything he did on the court and the stances he took off of it.
'He had not been ... for a long time'
The way Bill Russell saw it, he shouldn’t have been the first.
Chuck Cooper, Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, Earl Lloyd, Reece “Goose” Tatum, Marques Haynes, “Wee” Willie Smith, William “Pops” Gates …
All of these men and countless others came before, so why should Russell have been the first black player selected for the basketball Hall of Fame? Sure, the New York Rens had gone in as a team. And Bob Douglas was in as the squad’s owner and coach.
But the hall had been inducting classes every year since 1959, and by 1975, there were no black players individually recognized? Not one?