Everyone has a favorite Russell story and a favorite Russell memory. A generation of Celtics fans grew up listening to legendary announcer Johnny Most screaming, “Blocked by Russell! Blocked by Russell! He came from nowhere!” And so it’s interesting that people such as Cousy, Auerbach and Tom Heinsohn readily cite just one Russell play as the greatest they ever saw. Simply call it “The Coleman Play.”
The circumstance was the final minute of regulation in what turned out to be a double-overtime Game 7 of the 1957 Finals against St. Louis. As written the following day in the pages of The Boston Globe, it was described as follows: “His best play came when he sped from midcourt to go high in the air and slap back (St. Louis guard Jack) Coleman’s ‘sure thing’ layup which could have given the Hawks a 103-102 margin with 39 seconds left in regulation play.”
Said Cousy: “It was the most incredible physical act I’ve ever seen on a basketball floor. I had just led him down the floor for a basket, and his momentum had actually carried him off the floor. Then I looked up and Coleman already had an outlet pass at midcourt, and he was a good four or five steps ahead of everybody. He was going to score, and they were going to get the lead back with 40 seconds or so left to play. Russell took off with those loping steps and they must have been six or seven of the longest steps ever seen. He covered the entire 94 feet in no time at all and blocked Coleman’s shot. Coleman was no speed demon, but he was very athletic and could move.”
Jeff Green embracing life, hoops after heart surgery.
"You know what’s funny? A lot of these people are interested in the road I’ve traveled, because they admire that," said Green. "But it goes both ways. I want to hear their side. I want to hear from people who went through open-heart surgery or had a heart transplant and understand their story and how they managed to come back from that. It doesn’t matter if you’re a basketball player or not. A survivor is a survivor. We’re all in this together."
"To see what I’ve gone through, I guess it is pretty phenomenal," he said. "I don’t want that to come across the wrong way. I don’t want it to seem like I’m some sort of special case. But when you think about it, I once had a vial in my body that connected to my heart. And when I woke up after surgery, I couldn’t talk, couldn’t move. The only thing I could move was my toes and my head. That’s it. To see me running, jumping, shooting and playing 35 or 40 minutes a game now, I guess that’s pretty amazing, when you think about it."
"Trust the work you put in your craft. When I dial that number, I expect it to pick up."
"Johnny must have had some good coffee that day, because he was really excited. We had the game won by a point with five seconds left, but Bill Russell’s inbounds pass hit the guide wire that then went from the balcony to the basket. Under the rules, Philadelphia got the ball back. Russell said, ‘Somebody has to help me out,’ in the huddle during the timeout. They tried to in-bounds the ball. I was playing defense, counting to myself, ‘One-thousand-one, one—thousand-two,’ and when I got to ‘one-thousand-three,’ I knew I could sneak a peek. I saw Greer pass the ball, and I got my hands on it, and that was the game. I didn’t know until a few days later about Johnny’s call. Since then, it’s never left. Just a few days ago I was at the Final Four, and Pat O’Brien was doing his impression: ‘Havlicek stole the ball! Havlicek stole the ball!’ Everyone seems to have a Johnny impression. He was the one who made that play different."
"It’s that feeling of supporting and encouraging; you give all you have to your teammate to help him be who he can be. We had that kind of care about each other."
"I like being by myself. I’m a loner. People would ask why I sat in my garage. I’d say, ‘I gotta sit somewhere.’"
- Larry Bird
"Bill Walton was my hero years ago. Then one night we got to play against him in L.A. when he was playing with the mighty Clippers. The game was about two minutes old when Bill turned to the referee, and said [in a high pitched, whiny voice], ‘Tell Bird to stop pushing me, he won’t stop pushing me!’ Sometimes, it’s better not to meet your heroes."
"I knew from the first moment that I talked to him that he was going to be a person that would think not just about what you’re doing but why you’re doing it, and that’s a good thing. This is a great example. When you run a play, there are five guys in five spots, and most basketball players will go to their spot, they’ll do what they’re supposed to do, but they won’t know what the other four spots do, because they don’t understand why you’re doing it. He gets it all, and it’s no different in leading. It’s no different in how we’re coaching or running the organization. He understands the big picture, and I think it’s really important that we continue to share and talk about that, because he’s a big part of this."
"It was tough seeing the green and me not in it."
"Obviously it was different when the trade went down, but we were talking about them in the locker room today. I told some stories about things Paul did. I still talk to every one of those guys. I talked to Kevin yesterday. We still keep in touch with each other. It’s still a brotherhood. It’s not something you can forget. It’s a brotherhood for life."
“No matter if you’re one through 15, if you’re getting paid the minimum to the most, everybody’s going to have an opinion … You just focus on doing what your team needs you to do and playing for your teammates.”
"I know he’s excited and anxious to come back. I’m just excited to see him working out and [his after-practice work] lets me know he’s close to coming back and being on the court with us. He works on his shot every day. He’s been working hard. Preparing to come back. And we can’t wait to have him."
“I really don’t count my shots. I just shoot until I feel good.” - Larry Bird
“I can’t remember when I didn’t have a basketball in my hand. Growing up I was fortunate enough to have a basketball hoop in my backyard and could envision people playing defense on me anywhere. I felt like I was always involved in the game mentally.”
Former Detroit Piston and NBA Hall of Famer, Dennis Rodman:
“I would be all over him, trying to deny him the ball, and all Larry was doing was yelling at his teammates, ‘I’m open! Hurry up before they notice nobody is guarding me!’ Then he would stick an elbow in my jaw and stick the jumper in my face. Then he would start in on my coach, “Coach, you better get this guy out and send in somebody who’s going to D me up, because its too easy when I’m wide open like this.’”