If you ever needed a glimpse into Bill Russell’s legendary competitiveness, here you go.
Russell, who died Sunday at 88, was honored with the NBA’s lifetime achievement award during the league’s first awards show back in 2017 (broadcast on TNT). To honor the icon of the game, some of the other greatest big men the NBA has ever seen showed up on stage: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neill, David Robinson, Dikembe Mutombo, and Alonzo Mourning.
After being handed the award and joking, “where did they find all these tall people?”, Russell looked up and down the group, then pointed at each one and quietly said:
“I would kick your ass.”
The building erupted (as you can see in the video above).
Before we thought of Jordan/Kobe/Garnett as the epitome of competitiveness, there was Russell. He HATED to lose — and rarely did. Two NCAA titles, a gold medal, and he won the NBA title in 85% of his NBA seasons. That includes a couple as coach and player. Russell is the pinnacle of winning in the NBA, with more rings than fingers.
And it did so much more as a civil rights advocate than as a player.