By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
BOSTON Even with his playing days decades behind him, the honors continue to pour in for Boston Celtics great Bill Russell who will be honored with a statue in City Hall Plaza, it was announced on Monday.
Russell has talked about how great an honor it would be to be immortalized in such a manner.
But when it comes to individual recognition, Russell gave up on that pursuit many years ago.
As a junior at the University of San Francisco, nobody dominated the game at that time like Russell. He was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four which he capped off with 26 points and 27 rebounds - a record that still stands today - in the championship game, a 77-63 win over Lasalle. He was a 20-point, 20-rebound guy on the number one defense in the nation.
So at a postseason banquet honoring Northern California's best basketball players, writers at the time picked another center for player of the Year whose credentials weren't nearly as impressive.
From that point on, individual accolades had little value to the big man whose play redefined the game in ways no one saw coming.
"All I try to do is win every game," Russell said recently. "I didn't win them all, but I tried. So when I finished, if you say 'pick the best player,' it's always a matter of opinion. But if you win eight straight championships or 11 championships ... that's not a matter of opinion, that's a fact."
And the facts are clear.
In this town, championship runs are nice - but championship rings are the true measuring stick of success.
And by that, no one did it better than Russell, an 11-time NBA champion.
While there's no definitive date for the Rusell statue to be erected, the design will be revealed in the spring of 2012. There are three artists competing for the right to design the statue: Fern Cunningham, Ann Hirsch and Antonio Tobias Mendez.
While there has been talk about a Russell statue for some time, it didn't really seem to pick up steam until February.
In February, Russell was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. At the time, there were no plans for a Russell statue in place, but President Barack Obama pushed the idea forward.
I hope that one day in the streets of Boston, children will look up at a statue built not only to Bill Russell the player, but Bill Russell the man, Obama said.
The president's words resonated throughout Celtics Nation, as well as with city officials for a man described by Mayor Thomas M. Menino as "the greatest sports champion of our time and a tremendous advocate for human rights and education."
Stephen Pagliuca, managing partner and co-owner of the Boston Celtics, has also played a pivotal role in helping elevate a tribute to Russell from being just a concept into something more concrete.
"Bill Russell has continued to excel off the court in delivering support to our young people through mentoring programs," said Pagliuca who is also president of the Shamrock Foundation. "The site that Bill Russell and the Bill Russell Legacy Project selected for Bill's statue is perfect for all Bostonians to visit and recognize him for all his accomplishments."