Archive for February 17th, 2009

POD007850025The NBA recently announced that the MVP award of the NBA final will be named the Bill Russell Award.  I’m sure there are a lot of younger people out there who don’t even know who Bill Russell is or what he meant to basketball and sports in general.

Bill Russell was and is the greatest winner in basketball history.  Perhaps, in all sports history.

He led his University of San Francisco team to consecutive NCAA championships.

He captained the gold medal winning USA Olympic team in 1956.

He was the foundation of the Boston Celtics dynasty.  11 NBA championships.  Eleven in thirteen years.  Think about that.

Along with Bob Gibson, Bill Russell was my childhood idol.  When playing sock basketball with a bent wire hanger for a rim, I was always Bill Russell.  Trying to block everything.  Grabbing every rebound.  He won by doing the basics, not by scoring but by smothering the opponents with hsi defense and rebounding.

I remember sitting with my dada at the kitchen table,  listening to the radio, a green plastic box with a stick in the back that held the batteries in place.  The Celtics’ legendary announcer Johnny Most‘s voice cutting through the static, crackles and pops:

Russell blocks the shot!

What a competitor.  I remember reading James Toback‘s 1971 biography of Jim Brown where he recounted playing golf with Brown, Bill Russell and Fred “The Hammer” Williamson.  He was amazed as Brown and Russell went head to head, both legendary competitors.  Shot after shot, they matched one another, neither giving an inch.  It was a pure demonstration of the spirit of what may be the two most dominant players in sports history.  Russell’s competitive intensity was always evident on the court in his glares and the way he stalked the lane.  The fact that he regularly dominated Wilt Chamberlain, who was perhaps the most dominant offensive talent in NBA history, in their legendary head to head battles is further proof of this will to win.

But he was so much more.  He was an intellect, smart and witty.  He could and would expound on subjects outside of the basketball courtand do so with the same strength and grace he displayed on the court.  I loved listening to him as a commentator  after his career ended.  He was insightful and downright funny at times.  His gap-toothed grin and laugh were pure joy.  He was bigger  than sport.  

It’s a pity it took so long for the NBA to honor this man but at least they finally got it right.  He should be on the trophy…

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The Name Game

The IncantationWhat’s your name? Who’s your daddy?

Is he rich, is he rich like me?

A couple of memorable line from the old Zombies song, The Time of the Season.  

Knowing the true name of something has often been the sign of power over that person or thing. Think of a shaman performing an incantation, perhaps like the one depicted in this older piece I painted  many years ago.  I suppose that means that if one can know the truth, the real essence, of something, they can control or dominate it.

There is obviously something to the concept and  causes me to worry a bit for the open nature of our lives today  as expressed on blogs and social networks.

Maybe it’s a little paranoid, but I would rather be the incantor than the incantee.

Anyway, that’s only the premise to get to a little music.  I bet you thought it would be The Time of the Season ( which is a great song, one where the original is far superior to any subsequent covers) but actually I wanted to play a song that was sung many times over the years and remains a lot of fun to hear.  Plus it’s another great snapshot of the time with go-go dancers and everybody in jackets and ties.  Here’s Shirley Ellis and  The Name Game.

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