Bill Russell

Bill Russell and His Selfless Style of Play

In light of our upcoming winter basketball camps, we want to take the time to reflect on the play-style of NBA legend Bill Russell. We really value the way he played and believe that everyone in our academy can learn from his approach. 

The Hall of Famer passed away this summer at the age of 88. During his 13 seasons in the NBA, not only did he win 5 MVPs and appear in 12 all star games, but he won 11 championships! What was it that allowed Russell to become arguably the greatest winner in all of sports? Was it his gaudy Wilt Chamberlain-esque scoring? Nope. Russell only averaged 15 PPG for his career and never once broke 20. If you asked Russell himself or anyone that watched Russell in the 60s, they would tell you that it was in fact his winning intangibles that helped the Celtics to win 11 championships. 

The fact that intangibles could be the reason a player has so much success is a concept that is totally foreign to us in 2022. In modern day basketball, there is a lot of emphasis placed on stats and offensive prowess to where winning intangibles such as the ones that Russell brought often get overlooked. Athletes today can certainly learn a lot from past greats such as Russell though if they want to be able to develop a winners mentality. Below are 3 ways Bill Russell’s selfless style of play can help you to become a better basketball player.


Russell was an amazing defensive player. DPOY awards weren’t given out during his time, but if they were he would’ve won all of them. Bill Russell is the all time leader in defensive win shares in the NBA with 10.3 per season. For reference, second on that list is another great defensive player in Tim Duncan who had nearly half of Russell’s win shares at 5.6 per season. Defence is something that often gets overlooked, especially in today’s game. It requires lots of effort, hustle, determination and selflessness to be able to play defence at a high level since oftentimes it doesn’t show up in the box score.

Knowing His Role and Trusting His Teammates

Bill Russell once gave Kobe Bryant advice and told him, “What I do best is defend and rebound, so I’m going to completely focus on that. Let [Bob] Cousy handle the ball. Let Sam [Jones] be the shooter, [John] Havlicek be the shooter.” Bryant said that this advice was key in helping him and O’neal win 3 championships together. What made Russell successful was understanding that his role wasn’t to score points, but instead it was to do what he did best and trust that his teammates would take care of other aspects of the game.


Along with being a great defender and rebounder, Russell was also an underrated passer. Although his 4 assists per game are high for a centre, it was his outlet passes that made him special. Russell’s combination of getting stops defensively, rebounding and making perfect outlet passes to teammates is what propelled the Celtics to have such a lethal fast break offence. His willingness to excel in the things that didn’t show up in the stat sheet like outlet passes are what contributed to him being regarded as the most unselfish superstar in NBA history. 

Selflessness in sports is key for team success, and Bill Russell is exemplary of that. However, selfish habits in sports get harder to break as we get older. Selflessness in sports is something that has to be instilled at a young age. With anything we do, research has shown that replacing bad habits gets harder the older we get. TAC Sports Force Academy makes sure to prioritize selflessness, hard work, defence and all of the intangibles that make a great basketball player for youth between 3-16 years old. Click below to register for TAC Sports’ winter break basketball camps or sign up to be a member of our basketball academy.

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