William F. "Bill" Russell

Before Bill Russell brought his marvelous defensive and shot-blocking skills to basketball, the game focused primarily on offense. Russell reversed the trend, initiating a defensive mentality that remains a focal part of championship basketball. Considered the greatest defensive center in basketball history, the agile Russell was a dominant collegian. Playing under Hall of Fame Coach Phil Woolpert, and with fellow Hall of Famer K.C. Jones, Russell helped the University of San Francisco become one of college basketball's most exciting and prosperous teams. Russell then turned the Boston Celtics into a powerful machine that overwhelmed opponents both defensively and offensively. During Russell's career, Boston won eleven NBA championships, including eight consecutive titles from 1959 to 1966. Russell's head-to-head battles with Wilt Chamberlain were legendary. Russell was a five-time league MVP (1958, 1961-63, 1965), 12-time NBA All Star, Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year (1968), and The Sporting News Athlete of the Decade (1970).