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6 for No. 6: Celebrating the life and legacy of the NBA’s greatest winner, Bill Russell

(Editor’s note: This series was published before the 2022-23 NBA season.)

Bill Russell is an icon, a pioneer and the ultimate winner. His presence loomed large over the NBA community both on and off the court for a large part of its history.

It’s safe to say you can’t tell the story of the NBA without mentioning Bill Russell.

As we celebrate what would have been his 89th birthday, we mourn the loss of a legend who paved the way for many of today’s superstars and laid the foundation for others to use their voices for good. 

Six of The Sporting News’ talented NBA writers paid homage to Russell by telling six different stories. It’s our small way of saying thank you to No. 6 and a reminder that his legacy will never be forgotten. 

We know about the 11 rings in 13 years, but basketball didn’t define Russell. He was a man who not only believed in equality but stood on the frontline to fight for it.

TSN’s lead NBA writer Steph Noh read Russell’s autobiography “Go Up For Glory” and found out just how much Russell meant to the fight for racial equality as he did the NBA.

After retiring from the game in 1969, Russell remained close to the game of basketball. He spent time as a commentator and coach, but it was his impact as a mentor that was felt for generations to come. From Kobe Bryant to Kevin Garnett, Russell’s mentorship helped shape the modern NBA.

TSN’s Gil McGregor looked into what Russell meant long after he played his final game.

When the game was on the line, there was no better closer than Russell. He went a perfect 21-0 in winner-take-all games.

TSN’s Kyle Irving dove into the stakes that were on the line in each closeout game of Russell’s career and how he performed in them. 

Multiple generations of NBA fans never had the privilege of watching Russell dominate the NBA the way he did for 13 seasons. TSN’s Scott Rafferty falls in that category.

Too young to see Russell’s greatness, Rafferty went back and watched Game 6 of the 1963 NBA Finals and came away with a newfound respect for one of the NBA’s greats.

From Dennis Rodman and Ben Wallace to Rudy Gobert and Draymond Green, the NBA has seen some all-time great defenders. None, however, hold a candle to Russell’s dominance on that end of the floor.

TSN’s Jordan Greer looked into what made Russell so special and how he revolutionized defense in the NBA.

In 1956, Russell led the United States men’s basketball team to Olympic gold in Melbourne, Australia. And while it’s easy to imagine Russell winning Olympic gold on the hardwood, he could’ve had an opportunity to add another Olympic medal to his trophy case.

TSN’s Benyam Kidane dove into Russell’s otherworldly athleticism and how he might have medaled in another Olympic sport. 

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