It's Playoff time. A time for teams to buckle down and focus on winning. And winning is something that Bill Russell knows a lot about.
Having won 11 NBA championships as a player and coach of the Boston Celtics, two NCAA championships, and an Olympic gold medal, Russell has been called
"the greatest winner to ever play the game," by longtime Celtics coach and President Red Auerbach.
Russell's lastest book, RUSSELL RULES: 11 Lessons on
Leadership from the Twentieth Century's Greatest Winner
(paperback on-sale May 7), details the lessons that helped him to achieve NBA success and applies them to just about any walk of life. Russell reveals the eleven essential factors that influenced him in every aspect of his life that demonstrate how anyone can attain success both personally and professionally. Russell is not shy to admit that he has more rings than fingers, an accomplishment any NBA player would be envious of.
Russell was the cornerstone of the great Celtic teams of the 50's an 60's that won nine titles in a row, and 11 in 13 years. His remarkable shotblocking skills changed the way NBA teams played defense, and played offense against him. Standing only 6-9½ inches tall, Russell posted a career average of 22.5 rebounds per game, including a high of 51 in one game.
In addition to being a five-time NBA Most Valuable Player, and a 12-time All-Star, Russell was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996.
Russell chatted live on April 22.
Ethan (Duxbury): Do you think that the current players understand the Celtics tradition and hold respect for it?
Bill Russell: Definitely. Cousy and Heinsohn, JoJo White and Havlicek, myself, KC ... we all come around and talk to those guys on a regular basis. And then at the practice facility, they have replicas of all the championship flags hanging. So they can't escape it. In fact, I think they might get tired of it!
Claire Chicago: Having more rings than you can fit on all fingers, do you wear each for different occasions, or just as many as you can fit?
Bill Russell: Usually I just wear a couple, my first one and my last one, like a bracket. My rookie year we won a championship and my last year we won a championship -- then all the ones in between.
James (Melbourne): Bill, you were considered one of the meanest psychological players of all time. Which team do you think displayes that charactersitic in this years playoffs?
Bill Russell: The Lakers. The team personality tends to be intimidating because Shaq is such a dominant player. His attitude is "I can dig you." So the Lakers come close -- they're not on the same level of course. (laughs)
Chris Lull (Oakland, California): It's interesting to note that though the American experience has largely been a move from East to West, your life, much like that of Poet Robert Frost, began in California but has defined New England mythos. How did growing up in California shape your first few years with the Celtics?
Bill Russell: Lifestyles are completely different. On the West Coast, they're more laid back and that's why I live on the West Coast now. The people in the East Coast seem to be a bit more aggressive.
Cara (L.A): How important is playoff experience during the playoffs?
Bill Russell: If the team has a good attitude, it doesn't make a whole lot of difference. My first year with the Celtics, basically three first-year guys were the guys who did the best -- Heinsohn, Ramsey and myself. We all had tournament experience in college, but nothing like the NBA finals. Experience can be helpful especially the further you go.
Jared Riley: What do you think is the most major change in the NBA since you have been a player?
Bill Russell: I think they are better athletes now -- not necessarily better basketball players, but better athletes. And the change to an out-and-out zone.
Chad Craun, Mt. Solon, VA: Is there any way to defend Shaq successfully? How would you see yourself matching up against him if the two of you had played in the same era?
Bill Russell: That's difficult because the rules have changed since I played. To play against him, I would not have tried to stop him, I would have tried to make him less efficient. Just so that we could win the game. If you say you're trying to stop him, you're dooming yourself because if the guy's a great player, there's no way to stop him. Also, he'd have to guard me too, you know.
Andrew Lewis(Frenchtown): Hello Bill! I had the great opportunity to meet you at the NBA STORE in December, which was the best experience I have ever had. You are truly a class act. I was wondering what kind of relationship did you have with Wilt? What kind of guy was he?
Bill Russell: We were friends, real friends. Not just acquaintances or guys who played against each other. I had the utmost respect for him as a player and I think he felt the same way. The best games I had were against him and the best games he had were against me. Because you had to play at that level so as not to be embarrassed.
Mark (england): what was the toughest game you ever played?
Bill Russell: I guess it would have to be the game that got me my scholarship. We won by one point and it was my best game in high school. I had 14 points. It was so traumatic. I was so worn out -- I slept for three days afterwards. Mainly because I didn't know what I was doing.
Bobby Bartlett: what do you think the key factor in winning a championship is?
Bill Russell: Knowing how to work, knowing how to play and knowing how hard it is to do that.
Jared (Portland,ME): Aside from the ledgendary battles with Wilt, what other opponent gave you the most challenge in a game?
Bill Russell: Baylor and West of the Lakers, Bob Pettit at the Hawks and Oscar with Cincinnati. Those were all really tough series for us to play.
Dinh: This year any team can come out of the playoff representing the EAST, who's your pick for the EAST and what team has the best chance against a Western opponent Kings or Lakers?
Bill Russell: I haven't got the slightest idea. Every playoff game is different. I remember a couple cases where the team that won the first game by 25-30 points ended up losing the series. That's what I like about the playoffs - so much uncertainty.
Jen (Boston): Do you think the fans in Boston will soon appreciate the new era of the Boston Celtics, with Pierce and Walker?
Bill Russell: You know, they didn't embrace us for the first 3-4 championships. It was only after a few championships that they started to embrace us. We were the new kids on the block -- we didn't come until the 50s so we had to build our fan base. I think that Saturday's game was the first sellout this year. That means the fans are reacting to them.
Rob, (Detroit): What is your View on Ben Wallace?
Bill Russell: I think he's doing quite nicely and is pretty cute.
James (San Jose): How difficult is the transition from a player to a coach and how has Sacramento's management changed since you coached them? Would you ever coach again?
Bill Russell: The transition wasn't that big of a difference because as the captain of the Celtics so the captain was the assistant. He used to get thrown out of games quite regularly and I had experience coaching from that spot. I had been his assistant and he got thrown out of 23 games the last year he coached and I had to finish all of those games as the captain.
stefan (Hamburg,Germany): Mr. Bill Russell it is an honor for me to chat with you. I think you are one of the best ball players the NBA has ever seen.
How far can Boston come this year in the playoffs?
Bill Russell: I haven't got the slightest idea. Larry Brown is a good coach and one of the things in the playoffs, the coaches between games have to make adjustments. What kind of adjustments will he make to make the next game completely different? The game will be played differently because both coaches will make adjustments.
I'm at the dentist right now and he's going to put me to sleep! Thanks for chatting with me and cheer on the Celtics in the playoffs.