Basket Reference

Basket Reference

Revealed in 1965, Bill Russell's 4 Laws for Being the Ultimate NBA Winner Are More Relevant Than Ever

RIP Bill. RIP Legend.
Revealed in 1965, Bill Russell's 4 Laws for Being the Ultimate NBA Winner Are More Relevant Than Ever

Bill Russell passed away on July 31, 2022. The NBA lost a part of itself on that day. When the GOAT debate comes up in the NBA, you will have absolute Michael Jordan supporters. The younger ones will prefer LeBron James for his incredible longevity at the highest level in the NBA. Older fans will talk about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for all he has contributed on and off the court.

True NBA fans know how Bill Russell deserves to be included in the short list of players who can claim the unofficial title of GOAT. The greatest winner in NBA history is not Michael Jordan, but Bill Russell.

When Bill Russell left this world on July 31, 2022, he took with him the record for the most NBA titles ever won. Eleven! You read that right, Bill Russell managed to win eleven NBA titles with his Boston Celtics.

Bill Russell was an extraordinary athlete for his time. But even more than his raw physical dominance, Bill Russell dominated his opponents psychologically. He knew better than anyone how to get into their heads. Wilt Chamberlain had already been able to testify to this at the time.

Long before the “mind games” that Michael Jordan and others deployed on the court to confuse their opponents, Bill Russell had already theorized the art of destabilizing an opponent outside the strict framework of the game. He derived four laws that, 57 years later, are still applicable.

I would even go so far as to say that the 4 laws to be the ultimate winner in the NBA evoked by Bill Russell in a Sports Illustrated article dating back to 1965 are never more relevant. So here they are, hoping that we can find such a game intelligence in a player one day.

First law

“You have to push the opponent to do what you want him to do. You must make him think. If he's thinking instead of doing, he's yours. There's no time to think about basketball. You can't say to yourself, 'This just happened, this is what I have to do next. By the time he comes back from that window of reflection, it's already too late.”

Second Law

“You have to have a killer instinct. If you don't have it, forget about basketball and go into psychology or something. If sometimes you wonder if you have that instinct, you don't have it. No kittens here, please. My definition of a killer instinct is the ability to spot and exploit a weakness in the opponent.”

Third Law

“Be friendly, but don't cajole anyone. Be sympathetic, but when all else fails, an elbow in the mouth is an option. This is the psychology of last resort.”

Fourth Law

“Remember that basketball is a game of habits. As you get good at it, you develop some of them. If you can get a player out of his habits by psyching him up, he is at your mercy.”

These laws date back to a time when Michael Jordan was just a baby. Yet they still speak volumes and can be applied to any opposition sport. This advice comes from a man who was both a player and a coach in the Hall of Fame.

Tributes show how Bill Russell made American history

Anyone who knows the history of the NBA has always had great respect for him. You only have to read the various tributes paid by many NBA legends after the announcement of his death on July 31, 2022, to understand that a giant has left us.

Three tributes, in particular, have marked me. The first one is from more than two decades ago as it is signed by Wilt Chamberlain who died in 1999. Here is what the most incredible specimen in NBA history, and the main victim of Bill Russell's Celtics' collective domination of the NBA, once said about Bill Russell:

“Bill Russell helped make my dream a better dream because when you play with the best, you know you have to play your best.”

The second is from Magic Johnson:

“I am heartbroken to learn of the passing of the greatest winner basketball has ever seen, a legend, a Hall of Fame member, a mentor, and my friend for over 30 years, Bill Russell. Bill was my idol. I looked up to him on and off the field. His success on the field was undeniable. He was dominant with his 11 NBA titles. Off the court, Bill Russell led the way for guys like me.”

Finally, the last one comes from Barack Obama himself, which tells you a lot about how Bill Russell went far beyond sports in the NBA. He was a role model for the community:

“Today we lost a giant. Bill Russell was great in stature, but his legacy as a player and as a man extends far beyond that. Perhaps more than anyone else, Bill knew what it took to win and to be a leader of men. On the field, he was the greatest champion in history. Off it, he was a pioneer who walked with Martin Luther King and Muhammad Ali.

For decades, Bill endured insults and vandalism, but that never stopped him from speaking out about what he felt was right. I learned so much from the way he played basketball, coached, and lived his life. Michelle and I send all of our love to Bill's family and all of those who looked up to him.”

One final word: RIP Bill. RIP Legend.