BOSTON – One of the oldest rivalries in basketball remains an inspiration for the newest generation of NBA players.
The glory days of the decades-long feud between the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers franchise dating back to the 1950s are not lost on Jaylen Brown, who hopes to carry the tradition forward in the upcoming second-round matchup, which tips off Monday night at TD Garden.
“I’ve learned more about the Celtics and 76ers rivalry throughout time, watching Bill Russell’s Netflix series,” Brown said Sunday afternoon, referring to Russell’s two-part docuseries that premiered in February. “I got to see how he and Wilt Chamberlain had a rivalry back in the day – at least the Sixers and the Celtics did – and Bill and Wilt used to go at it, and how many people used to show up to those games and how [the rivalry] was born. Just learning about that history kind of gave me more insight into today’s time.”
The docuseries also gave Brown insight into Russell’s competitive nature, which always peaked come playoff time. The 76ers knew that all too well. They faced off against Russell in eight playoff series throughout his 13-year career and came away with just a 1-7 record.
“Bill Russell was an amazing competitor and a lot of his peers had so much respect for him,” said Brown, who has paid his respects to the late Celtics Legend throughout the playoffs by wearing a custom pair of Russell-themed shoes. “Wilt Chamberlain was one. He would talk about how fierce Bill Russell was, the will to win, how much he wanted to win, how much will, how much drive, how much determination he had.”
Such determination is what made Russell a winner. And Brown believes the 11-time champion set the tone for future winners.
“You can measure players by their talent and skill level but there are other gears that players have,” said Brown. “You’ll probably be able to notice some guys in the playoffs even now in today’s game that have different gears that you can go to where it just seems like they come alive or just have the will to win. Bill was one of the pioneers of that. Just the intangibles. It was fun to watch the docuseries and it’s fun to play in Boston.”
The passionate fan bases play into the fun of the rivalry, as well. TD Garden and Wells Fargo Center are among the loudest arenas in the NBA. And although matchups are far less frequent than they used to be, Brown still embraces all aspects of the rivalry.
“I think it was a lot different back then than it is now, but I definitely enjoy the 76ers matchup,” said Brown. “It’s a fun environment, a great basketball environment, a lot of intensity, especially on the road in Philly. So it should be fun.”
This will be the 23rd time that the Celtics and 76ers face off in the playoffs, which marks an NBA record for most series played between two franchises. Boston owns a 14-8 record, including five straight series wins dating back to the early 1980s.
Brown hopes to make it six straight in honor of the legendary No. 6, while attempting to channel Russell’s competitive spirit throughout.