Netflix Doc Tells the Celtics Hero’s Story

Bill Russell is the greatest winner in the history of American professional sports. During his 13-year career with the Boston Celtics, the 6-foot-10-inch center-back won 11 championships, the last two being won while he was a player and head coach. He’s also won two national titles, an Olympic gold medal, five NBA MVP awards, and 12 NBA All-Star titles. Renowned for his all-around rebound, clearance, and defense, he’s been so synonymous with NBA success that the league’s Finals MVP award is now named after him.

That legacy is part of the reason why so many illustrious basketball stars, past and present, are featured in Bill Russell: Legend. However, as conveyed in this two-part Netflix documentary from director Sam Pollard (MLK/FBI, citizens of Ashe), they also joined because Russell is not only a great player—he’s also a passionate civil rights activist who never wavered from who he was or what he believed in, who bravely used her platform to help promote equality for Black Americans.

Narrated by Corey Stoll, Bill Russell: Legend (February 8) won’t be a fun history lesson for basketball fans in Los Angeles and Philadelphia, whose teams — often led by Wilt Chamberlain, longtime nemesis of the team Russell — frequently fell to Russell’s Boston Celtics during his managerial career from 1956-1969. On the other hand, Beantown viewers will love this comprehensive non-fiction portrait that paints a picture of a life defined, on and off the court, by unwavering conviction. Unconcerned with bowing to the expectations of others, is fiercely loyal to his teammates and coaches, despite prejudice against himself and his fellow countrymen, and is committed to doing the right things. right regardless of the arena, as Larry Bird put it succinctly. it, “one who stands up” in every respect.

Be guided by talkers (including Bob Cousy, Magic Johnson, Steph Curry, Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, Jerry West, Walt Frazier, Bill Bradley, Shaquille O’Neal, Jayson Tatum, etc.) inspired by a series of stunning archives, Bill Russell: Legend chart the rise of Russell, beginning with the segregated Jim Crow community in Monroe, Louisiana. Unwilling to endure further hateful discrimination, Russell’s father moved his family to Oakland, where Russell – thanks to his mother – developed a voracious appetite for illustrated books. available at the public library. Pollard’s archives reveal that, from an early age, Russell displayed an intense curiosity and artistic sensibility, and that he benefited greatly from proud parents, who taught him to always work hard and be honest with himself.

Underpinned by those values, Russell grew from an ungrateful kid to a promising basketball player, where at the University of San Francisco he became a phenomenon, leading the school to a championship. consecutive national enemies. When the NBA gave the signal, Boston Celtics coach Arnold “Red” Auerbach performed an incredible draft hoax (starring Ice Capades!) to secure the pick to get him as Russell. , who he sees as key to turning the Celtics away from longtime rivals into champions. Although his early days were a bit difficult (thanks to his limited attacking play), Russell quickly proved his worth with his agile and fearsome defense and counterattack, becoming become the ideal addition to the super star guard Cousy and, therefore, the missing key of the Celtics puzzle.

Russell’s towering basketball feats are recounted in Bill Russell: Legend, supported by footage of his competitions and commentary from both his countrymen and Russell himself — thanks to old interviews as well as passages from his memoirs read by Jeffrey Wright. However, the series is more than just a simple pack of clips. Director Pollard repeatedly draws a connection between Russell’s tough play and his guiding desire to prioritize team victory over individual achievement. Through carefully edited scenes, he demonstrates in many ways, big or small, that Russell has put his altruistic ethos into practice—an attitude that often leads to victory over opponents. his work, most notably Chamberlain, who considers me a first for anything Russell-it-takes positivity.

Bill Russell: Legend conveys a profound sense of Russell as an athlete and a man who – with his high-pitched, boisterous laughter as true as his stern look – never backed down from a fight , changing attitudes or staying silent to please others. Faced with racism in the Boston suburb of Reading, where he and his family live, as well as in many of the NBA cities he has visited, Russell fought for black American rights, marching famous for Martin Luther King Jr. with Muhammad Ali when he protested the Vietnam War. Criticized throughout his career for being cold, unfriendly, and “arrogant” (the last of which he proudly agrees), Russell is defined by his principles. If those things are misleading – his refusal to sign autographs, for example, which stems from the belief that he owes the public no more than his on-field performances – they are still things that have made him an icon of athletic achievement and civil rights valor.

Library of Congress/Authorized by Netflix

Russell appears in Bill Russell: Legend is a lover of the competition and camaraderie of basketball but won’t stop his mature sense of injustice. Pollard understands Russell inside and out and, in the process, captures the times and times marked by various villains and heroes—probably Boston sports journalists who frequently downplayed Russell’s role and accomplishments on the team (often in favor of praising the white Cousy), or Red Auerbach, a tough coach and general manager who pursued Russell from all odds, as well as spearheading NBA integration efforts, establishing the first all-Black starting unit and hiring Russell as an instructor. the league’s first Black coach. Auerbach is portrayed as a refined civil rights pioneer in his own right, and so it is no wonder that the demanding Russell has embraced him affectionately as an empath.

Russell is the gold standard for sporting excellence, not only because of his unparalleled accolades but also because, as Bill Russell: Legend illustrated, he embodies noble ideals of altruism, solidarity, freedom and justice for all. He’s a giant on the wooden decks of the Boston Garden, and – more importantly – a shining example that all future athletes should aspire to.

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