Watch Bill Russell sit down for an hour with Bill Simmons, discuss his legacy, racial and political issues, Boston in the ’60’s, and other topics. Well worth an hour if you have NBA TV, under the title “Mr. Russell’s House.” It was wonderful to see Russell receive the Congressional Medal of Freedom last year from President Barack Obama. Finally, the city of Boston will build a statue to commemorate Bill Russell.
Here is a link to NBA.com’s promo for the show, with Bob Ryan’s commentary.
Sports Illustrated’s October 25, 1965 issue featured Russell on the cover with the title, “How I Psych Them,” by Boston’s Bill Russell. Credit the magazine with keeping their archives free and accessible. Note that it was 35 cents in 1965. Here is the start of that article:
“The first thing I am not about to do is look up the definition of psychology in the dictionary. Why bother? I mean, dictionaries are nice and all that, but did old Daniel Webster ever have to stand there at the top of the key and define five sweating monsters rushing down at him? He did not. Well, then.
I will not confuse you with Webster‘s words, because my definition of psychology is something else again, and I have been practicing it for a whole flock of years now and I ought to know. In my psychology you wear short pants and tape and sneakers, and this is the kind of thing you do:
Say I am standing next to a rookie who has just come into the game—some hotshot college All-America who is not yet used to his rookie role. The action is swirling all around him, and I say to him, casually, “Hey, what’s the matter with you, baby? Don’t they ever pass that ball to you? What are you, a nothing on this club?” Oh, yeah, they laugh it off. But you can see them thinking about what you said.
Or I find someone who is new in the league, and I stand next to him and hack and cough it up. Sometimes I feel I should get an Oscar for this. I know they’re watching me out of the edge of their eyes, and they are figuring, “So this is the great Bill Russell. Hell, he’s just a tired old cat. And here I am, as fresh as can be.” They don’t know that I have a reserve tank.
You say these are minor league tricks? Maybe. But you’d be surprised at how often they work. The thing is, you have to pick your spots. Let’s say you are playing center opposite Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia 76ers, and it is one hot and heavy game. The score is just about even, and it is the middle of the second quarter—the time when you’re most tired before getting your second wind. Tired? Listen, you are so tired that your leg muscles burn, and you know in your heart that Wilt is as tired as you are. But you are both breathing shallowly so as not to give any sign of how you really feel. Now. Wilt is on defense, and he is leaning on you with all of his 250 pounds and you have your mouth up close to his ear and you say to him, pleasantly, “Hey, baby. I never thought I’d see the day when a great big guy like you would be pushing an old man like me around.”
So what does Wilt say to you? Wilt says, “Don’t give me that old psych, baby.” (I have cleaned up that quote. I have also shown that psychology does not work every time. The trick is in knowing who to talk to under the basket.)
I have enough of these situations cataloged inside my head to do a master’s thesis on The Psychology of Basketball, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Spook the Opposition. As a matter of fact, this is my thesis, and the next case is a psychological horror story.”