If there’s one man who knows a thing or two about the high stakes of a Game 7, it’s Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell. Russell guided the Celtics to many Game 7 victories during his playing days, so he’d know what to say if the team were currently to face something like that. Since the Celtics will be facing the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 7 on May 15, 2022, Russell of course was going to have something to say about that.
After the Celtics beat the Bucks 108-95 to take the series back to Boston, Russell sent out a motivational tweet to the Celtics to close out Milwaukee when two square off for the winner-take-all game.
It warms the heart knowing Russell still has ties to the Celtics all these years later. The fact that he’s going out of his way to support the team now should serve as inspiration for the Celtics to give it their A-game when they try to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Bill Russell had an Impeccable Game 7 Record as a Player
Having won 11 championships in the 13 years he played in the NBA – and he was a player-coach the last two titles he won – Russell had to get over the Game 7 hump quite a few times to get there. Russell proved countless times that he could get over the hump. In fact, according to StatMuse, in the 10 Game 7s that he played in, Bill Russell and the Celtics always came away as the victors.
Most of these Game 7s were no cakewalk for Russell in the slightest. Most of them came down to the very last possession of the game. Just look at the scores of each Game 7 he played in.
-Game 7 vs. the St. Louis Hawks in the 1957 NBA Finals: Celtics won 125-123
-Game 7 vs. the Syracuse Nationals in the 1959 NBA Division (Conference) Finals: Celtics won 130-125
-Game 7 vs. the St. Louis Hawks in the 1960 NBA Finals: Celtics won 122-103
-Game 7 vs. the Philadelphia Warriors in the 1962 Division Finals: Celtics won 109-107
-Game 7 vs. the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1962 NBA Finals: Celtics won 110-107
-Game 7 vs. the Cincinnatti Royals in the 1963 Division Finals: Celtics won 142-131
-Game 7 vs. the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1965 Division Finals: Celtics won 110-109
-Game 7 vs. the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1966 NBA Finals: Celtics won 95-93
-Game 7 vs. the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1968 Division Finals: Celtics won 100-96
-Game 7 vs. the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1969 NBA Finals: Celtics won 108-106
The high stakes of winning Game 7 were never too big for Russell no matter what round he was in. Considering most of these games were decided by five points or less, it was clear both he and the Celtics could come through in the clutch when they had to.
Russell Statistically Dominated in Game 7s
Russell’s undefeated record in Game 7s is impressive compared to other NBA Hall-of-Famers, but what makes it even more impressive is that Russell himself thrived in those moments in every single game. Take a look at the statlines he posted in every Game 7 he played in.
-Game 7 of the 1957 NBA Finals: 19 points, 32 rebounds (Russell’s rookie year)
-Game 7 of the 1959 Division Finals: 18 points, 32 rebounds
-Game 7 of the 1960 NBA Finals: 22 points, 35 rebounds
-Game 7 of the 1962 Division Finals: 19 points, 22 rebounds
-Game 7 of the 1962 NBA Finals: 30 points, 40 rebounds
-Game 7 of the 1963 Division Finals: 20 points, 24 rebounds
-Game 7 of the 1965 Division FInals: 15 points, 29 rebounds, eight assists
-Game 7 of the 1966 NBA Finals: 25 points, 32 rebounds
-Game 7 of the 1968 Division Finals: 12 points, 26 rebounds, five assists
-Game 7 of the 1969 NBA Finals: Six points, 21 rebounds, six assists (Russell’s final year)
Note that the NBA did not keep track of blocks or steals during Russell’s time. If they did, Russell would have stood out there too, knowing his reputation as a defender.
From start to finish, Russell stepped up when the Celtics needed him to. His efforts played a vital role in how the Celtics won 11 titles in 13 years with him on the team.