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The Finals MVP to Receive Bill Russell MVP Award

By NBA Official Release
Posted Feb 14 2009 7:42PM

PHOENIX -- Bill Russell, the cornerstone of a Boston Celtics team that won 11 NBA championships in 13 seasons, including a record eight straight titles, will be permanently honored by having The Finals Most Valuable Player Trophy named for him, NBA Commissioner David Stern announced today.

"Who better to name this prestigious award for than one of the greatest players of all time and the ultimate champion," said Stern. "Bill inspired a generation not just of basketball fans but Americans everywhere. He is respected by colleagues, coaches, fans, and his legacy clearly has withstood the test of time."

The Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award will be presented at the conclusion of The Finals. Select writers and broadcasters who cover the series will determine the MVP.

Russell anchored a Celtics team that became synonymous with NBA championships during the 1960s. As a rookie center, he helped the Celtics earn their first NBA title in 1957, defeating the St. Louis Hawks in seven games. It was the first of 10 straight Finals appearances for Boston, including eight straight titles from 1959-1966. Following the 1966 championship season, Head Coach Red Auerbach retired and Russell took over as player-coach, becoming the NBA's first African-American coach. After failing in 1967 to make The Finals for the first time since 1956, Russell guided the Celtics to consecutive titles in 1968 and 1969. Russell would win 11 NBA Championships throughout his career as a player and coach.

The 1969 Finals between the Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers was the first time a Most Valuable Player trophy was awarded, with the Lakers' Jerry West the first recipient -- the first and only time the MVP Award has gone to a member of the losing team.

Russell earned five Most Valuable Player Awards during his career. He was enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975 and was named the "Greatest Player in the History of the NBA" by the Professional Basketball Writers Association of America in 1980. In 1996, Russell was honored as "One of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History" during the All-Star Game in Cleveland.

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