By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest. —Confucius
At 86-years-old, Bill Russell is wise, not by default, but through a life of experiences the likes of which represent an orchestra of highs and lows of the mind, body and soul.
Recently, the venerable Mr. Russell took to the pages of the Boston Globe to give his thoughts on the current state of affairs in America. Indeed, who alive today is more qualified than he to make such an observation?
In his typical style, Russell surmises our modern condition juxtaposed against the backdrop of the days of his physical prime with the Boston Celtics, during much of which Big Bill was in the thick of the fight for change. The Civil Rights, Author and All-time NBA great’s words were passionate and to the point regarding the static reality of racism in America.
“It’s the kind of strange that has dogged America from the beginning. The kind of strange that justified indigenous genocide in the name of “civility.” It’s the kind of strange that built a country out of the labor of that “peculiar” institution known as slavery. It’s the kind of strange that justified Jim Crow, mass incarceration, police brutality, and the inequities that persist in every facet of the Black American experience,” Russell is quoted as saying.
Very few men alive can speak on such matters with accuracy, both historic and athletic. Recently, former NBA center turned talking head Kendrick Perkins tweeted out a GIF of LeBron James with the caption “Most Athletic NBA Player Ever”, to which Russell responded with receipts almost as long as his arms.
“In ’56 I could have made the Olympics in high jump but turned it down to play basketball instead,” Russell pointed out to Perkins. Indeed, a lot of these young cats need constant reminders. Whenever the discussion of eras arises, the legendary exploits of NBA elites from yesteryear are scrutinized and criticized for lack of athleticism. But players like Russell, Wilt and Elgin Baylor completely destroy that line of thinking with the way they played. Still, younger fans will feign ignorance to their abilities, while refusing to watch video that counters their opinion.
In 56 I could have made the Olympics in high jump but turned it down to play basketball instead we could only play one sport then. Track and Field News ranked me #7 high jumper in the world, I was ranked #2 in the US @ the time. @celtics @NBA pic.twitter.com/6FqZjiMlhG
— TheBillRussell (@RealBillRussell) June 17, 2020
Ya heard what that man said? He said he was the 7th ranked high jumper in the world, NUMBER TWO in the United States! The really, REALLY crazy part is? As athletic as Big Bill was, most people would readily admit that Wilt Chamberlain was even MORE athletic. For the record, Wilt ran the quarter-mile, as well as competed in the long jump and shot put. Did we mention he grabbed an NBA record 55 rebounds against ridiculously athletic Russell?
Yeah, long story short, keep your ignorant comments about bygone eras outcha mouth. Being a former NBA player and actually knowing basketball, apparently, do not go hand-in-hand with one another.
We’re looking at you, Kendrick.