King of the Court: Bill Russell and the Basketball Revolution

King of the Court: Bill Russell and the Basketball Revolution

King of the Court: Bill Russell and the Basketball Revolution

King of the Court: Bill Russell and the Basketball Revolution

Synopsis

Bill Russell was not the first African American to play professional basketball, but he was its first black superstar. From the moment he stepped onto the court of the Boston Garden in 1956, Russell began to transform the sport in a fundamental way, making him, more than any of his contemporaries, the Jackie Robinson of basketball. In King of the Court, Aram Goudsouzian provides a vivid and engrossing chronicle of the life and career of this brilliant champion and courageous racial pioneer. Russell's leaping, wide-ranging defense altered the game's texture. His teams provided models of racial integration in the 1950s and 1960s, and, in 1966, he became the first black coach of any major professional team sport. Yet, like no athlete before him, Russell challenged the politics of sport. Instead of displaying appreciative deference, he decried racist institutions, embraced his African roots, and challenged the nonviolent tenets of the civil rights movement. This beautifully written book--sophisticated, nuanced, and insightful--reveals a singular individual who expressed the dreams of Martin Luther King Jr. while echoing the warnings of Malcolm X.

Excerpt

I have known Bill Russell for more than forty years, and for the past thirty years, I have featured aspects of his life and career as study segments in my sociology of sports classes. So when I was asked to write the Foreword to the present book, my initial reaction was that, based on the title, the author had undertaken a daunting, if not impossible task—to elucidate in a single volume the life and the basketball legacy of the most illustrious icon in team sports history. Such would be the challenge of judiciously exploring the understated intellectual brilliance, the profound psychological dexterity, the athletic mastery, and the strength of character underpinning the incomparable basketball career and myriad life contributions of William Felton Russell. Nonetheless, particularly when considered in combination with Russell’s own autobiographical books—Go Up for Glory, Second Wind, and Red and Me—and the scores of more limited profile articles and interviews published over the years, I judge King of the Court: Bill Russell and the Basketball Revolution to be an exceedingly rewarding and superbly complementary contribution toward broadening our understanding of this truly extraordinary man and athlete.

It is said that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” to which might arguably be added “except in the case of Bill Russell.” Neither dramatic action photos nor the grainy black-and-white films from Russell’s basketball career have the capacity to capture or depict, much less to encompass, his unique mastery of and contribution to the game. The images of Russell rebounding and running the court— gazelle-like in his agility, in his jumping ability, and in the pace and grace of his stride—seem all but off-set by the practiced adequacy of his left-handed field goal and free-throw shooting. Relative to “style points” and the usual array of individual statistical measures of basketball performance and proficiency, he neither ex-

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