Fans of the Detroit Pistons and the rest of the basketball world were rocked yesterday with the news of Bill Russell’s passing.
Condolences to his family and friends, our thoughts and prayers go out to all of you at this time. We’ll forever celebrate the man first and then the basketball player. His accomplishments go far beyond the parquet hardwood of Boston. A man of integrity, an activist, and a winner in life.
Bill Russell is recognized as the greatest winner in professional team sports. His 11 NBA championships is the pinnacle of team success. His five MVP trophies (in a era where players voted for the winner) proved him to be the catalyst for the Celtics. He’s known as a defensive icon, who became the blueprint for how bigs defend their position.
The Detroit Pistons being one of the most storied franchises in the NBA and have seen their fair share of opponents. Some believe that Pistons vs Celtics rivalry started with Larry Bird and Isiah Thomas battling, but Dave Bing and Bill Russell had their battles as well.
The Detroit Pistons had their hands full trying to deal with Bill’s Celtics. Whether playoffs or regular season Russell played to win, with a record of 87-18 facing the Pistons to show for it. We’ll highlight his top five performances when playing against Detroit in his memory.
Bill Russell’s top-5 games against the Detroit Pistons
No. 5: The Triple Double Game
This was a regular season contest that took place on December 6th, 1966. Bill was once again dominant at home finishing the game with 13 points, 11 assists, and 24 rebounds. He orchestrated the fast break to perfection after gobbling up rebounds. He had three of his seventeen career triple doubles against the Pistons.
The game was close early with Celtics ahead 60-58 at the half. The Celtics led by Russell showed their championship muscle in third quarter, with stifling defense they pulled away. It ended in a lopsided defeat for the visiting Pistons losing 130-111.
The triple double wasn’t meaningful to Bill, as he never played for stats, winning the game is what mattered to him. That’s one of the characteristics that allowed him to win so many titles and eventually become the first black coach in professional sports.
His brilliant mind for the game challenged coaches. In his era they taught bigs not to leave their feet and to make the player shoot over you, but he didn’t listen to that. Instead, Russell decided to change the game by blocking shots. At that time blocks weren’t tracked or considered a stat, so who knows it could’ve been a quadruple double. That is just one of the ways that Bill Russell changed the game of basketball.
No. 4: The Christmas Day Game
Russell, like many other star players, made his mark in the legendary Christmas Day NBA games. The league for decades has put their best competition on full display during the annual event. It has become a staple for NBA fans all over the world.
On that day in 1964 he showcased his scoring touch, alongside his world renowned ability to clean up the glass. The Secretary Of Defense notched 21 points to go with his 31 rebounds, sealing the victory as he did so many times previously.
The rebounding was something fans grew to expect from Bill Russell. He had three 30+ rebound games against the Detroit Pistons that week alone. Just two days after this epic performance of Christmas he followed it up with 30 rebounds before capping off his holiday week with another jaw dropping 34 rebounds on January 2nd 1965.