Bradley’s Buzz: Bill Russell was the greatest winner ever

FILE - Bill Russell, left, star of the Boston Celtics is congratulated by coach Arnold "Red" Auerbach after scoring his 10,000th point in the NBA game against the Baltimore Bullets in Boston Garden on Dec. 12, 1964. The NBA great Bill Russell has died at age 88. His family said on social media that Russell died on Sunday, July 31, 2022. Russell anchored a Boston Celtics dynasty that won 11 titles in 13 years. (AP Photo/Bill Chaplis, file)

Combined ShapeCaption
FILE - Bill Russell, left, star of the Boston Celtics is congratulated by coach Arnold "Red" Auerbach after scoring his 10,000th point in the NBA game against the Baltimore Bullets in Boston Garden on Dec. 12, 1964. The NBA great Bill Russell has died at age 88. His family said on social media that Russell died on Sunday, July 31, 2022. Russell anchored a Boston Celtics dynasty that won 11 titles in 13 years. (AP Photo/Bill Chaplis, file)

Bill Russell died at 88 on Sunday. History will forever be kind to him – the award given the MVP of the NBA finals is named for him – though his career is given short shrift in ESPN-aired discourses on “legacies,” which is the Worldwide Leader’s go-to topic when it can think of nothing else.

Regarding the NBA’s GOAT, the candidates are usually Michael Jordan and LeBron James. Debaters tend to side with Jordan and his six NBA titles. James has four, albeit with three different franchises. That’s 10 championships between those two worthies.

Bill Russell won 11 titles with one franchise, 11 over 13 seasons.

Let’s say the NBA’s greatest centers not including Russell were Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal. They have 12 titles among them, one more than Russell by himself. A staple ESPNish contention holds that nothing matters except rings. If that’s true, shouldn’t the guy with more rings than fingers be the GOAT?

Russell won five MVP awards – one fewer than Abdul-Jabbar, the same number as Jordan, one ahead of Chamberlain and James. Russell never led the NBA in scoring, never averaged as many as 19 points in a season. In 1961-62, Chamberlain averaged 50.4 points and finished a distant second to Russell in MVP voting. Much of Russell’s brilliance was that he, alone among players of that era, could actually guard Wilt the Stilt.

If you’re too young to have seen Russell play, that’s why YouTube exists. Be warned, though. You won’t see a guy demanding the ball. He never led the Celtics in scoring over his 13 seasons. There were others – from Bob Cousy to John Havlicek, from Bill Sharman to Sam Jones, from Tom Heinsohn to Bailey Howell – who could do that. The Celtics wouldn’t have won anything without their center’s rebounding, his defense and his incalculable presence.

Russell went to Oakland’s McClymonds High. His basketball teammate was Frank Robinson, a baseball Hall of Famer. Russell became the NBA’s first Black coach; Robinson was MLB’s first Black manager.

Russell led the San Francisco Dons to consecutive NCAA titles, after which he helped the U.S. team to a gold medal in the Melbourne Olympics. Red Auerbach traded Cliff Hagan and Easy Ed Macauley to St. Louis for the 1956 draft’s No. 2 pick, which Boston exercised on Russell. The Rochester Royals took Sihugo Green of Duquesne No. 1.

(It’s believed Celtics owner Walter Brown expedited the draft deal by promising that the Ice Capades, of which Brown was part-owner, would make a longer-than-usual stop in Rochester.)

I could write 100,000 words about William Felton Russell, but this is a newsletter, not “War and Peace.” I’ll leave it at this: He was the greatest winner – and winning counts for an awful lot – in the history of U.S. sports, and he’s among the finest human beings. He was one of the first Black athletes to give voice to civil rights, or the lack thereof.

I’ve been watching ballgames for a while now. There’s no sports figure I’ve admired more.

***

About the Deshaun Watson decision

Combined ShapeCaption
FILE - Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson walks on the field during NFL football training camp in Berea, Ohio, Friday, July 29, 2022. Watson was suspended without pay for six games Monday, Aug. 1, 2022, for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy following accusations of sexual misconduct made against him by two dozen women in Texas, two people familiar with the decision said. (AP Photo/David Dermer, File)

Credit: David Dermer

FILE - Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson walks on the field during NFL football training camp in Berea, Ohio, Friday, July 29, 2022. Watson was suspended without pay for six games Monday, Aug. 1, 2022, for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy following accusations of sexual misconduct made against him by two dozen women in Texas, two people familiar with the decision said. (AP Photo/David Dermer, File)

Credit: David Dermer

Combined ShapeCaption
FILE - Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson walks on the field during NFL football training camp in Berea, Ohio, Friday, July 29, 2022. Watson was suspended without pay for six games Monday, Aug. 1, 2022, for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy following accusations of sexual misconduct made against him by two dozen women in Texas, two people familiar with the decision said. (AP Photo/David Dermer, File)

Credit: David Dermer

Credit: David Dermer

ESPN reports that the quarterback Deshaun Watson, from Clemson by way of Gainesville, Ga., will be suspended six games for allegations of sexual misconduct. This isn’t what the NFL wanted – the league was pushing for at least a year – but disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson, a former federal judge acting as arbitrator, didn’t dock him even half a season. Nor did she assess a fine.

This was always going to be a difficult decision. Twenty-five women had filed suit against Watson. Then again, no criminal charges had been filed, and as of Monday all lawsuits save one had been settled. What’s the proper penalty for a player accused of multiple allegations that haven’t risen to the level of crimes? Should he be penalized at all?

Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer was suspended two years for allegations of sexual abuse, though he hasn’t been charged with a crime. Much will be made of that contrast.

The NFL has the right to appeal Robinson’s decision, and commissioner Roger Goodell – the utlimate appellate judge – could issue a longer penalty. Here’s guessing Goodell is ready to be done with this.

***

About the Braves and trades

Combined ShapeCaption
Atlanta Braves first baseman Matt Olson, left, and outfielder Adam Duvall, who both had two-run home runs in the game, give each other a high five while celebrating beating the New York Mets in a baseball game on Tuesday, July 12, 2022, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Atlanta Braves first baseman Matt Olson, left, and outfielder Adam Duvall, who both had two-run home runs in the game, give each other a high five while celebrating beating the New York Mets in a baseball game on Tuesday, July 12, 2022, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Combined ShapeCaption
Atlanta Braves first baseman Matt Olson, left, and outfielder Adam Duvall, who both had two-run home runs in the game, give each other a high five while celebrating beating the New York Mets in a baseball game on Tuesday, July 12, 2022, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

The MLB trade deadline is Tuesday. They’ll do something. It mightn’t be a big something. As ever, much depends on Mike Soroka. If the front office is hearing good things about his rehab, the urgency for a starting pitcher eases. As is, the Braves could deploy a playoff rotation of Max Fried, Kyle Wright, Charlie Morton and Ian Anderson. The latter two haven’t had big seasons, but they have histories of postseason excellence.

As for a left fielder to replace Adam Duvall: We know outfielders are always available, the Braves having landed four last year. Expect them to find another this time. Also expect another reliever. (Can’t have too many of those.) General manager Alex Anthopoulos considers the deadline his moment to show the men on his roster than the front office is doing all it can to push them into October/November. He’ll do something.

***

About Ian Anderson, again

Combined ShapeCaption
Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Ian Anderson delivers against the St. Louis Cardinals during the first inning in a MLB baseball game on Tuesday, July 5, 2022, in Atlanta. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

 Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Ian Anderson delivers against the St. Louis Cardinals during the first inning in a MLB baseball game on Tuesday, July 5, 2022, in Atlanta.  “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Combined ShapeCaption
Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Ian Anderson delivers against the St. Louis Cardinals during the first inning in a MLB baseball game on Tuesday, July 5, 2022, in Atlanta. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Six days after yielding seven runs and eight hits over three innings, he yielded one hit and no runs over six. His ERA is again under 5.00, though only just. I don’t understand it, either.