Bill Russell’s basketball career: By the numbers

There was no greater winner in not only the history of the NBA, but in all North American professional team sports than the legendary Bill Russell, who died Sunday at the age of 88.

Recognized as one of the all-time greats, the longtime Boston Celtics center won 11 NBA titles, two NCAA championships and a gold medal with the U.S. men’s basketball team in the 1956 Olympics. 

Here are some of the statistics that tell the story of Russell’s incredible 13-year NBA tenure and just how great of a player he was.

3: Russell is one of just three players to be named NBA MVP five or more times, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six) and Michael Jordan (five). 

11: Russell’s 11 championships titles are an NBA record. Those 11 titles are more than all but two franchises have in their history; The Los Angeles Lakers and the Celtics both have 17. Two of the championships were won as a player-coach.

12: In his 13-year career, Russell appeared in a record 12 NBA Finals. He also played in a record 70 NBA Finals games. 

51: In 1960, Russell posted the second-most rebounds in a single game, grabbing 51 versus the Syracuse Nationals. It is one of two 50-plus rebound games in NBA history (Wilt Chamberlain holds the record with 55 rebounds against the Celtics on Nov. 24, 1960.)

30: Those 51 rebounds are more than all 30 NBA teams averaged per game last season. The Memphis Grizzlies posted a league-leading 49.2 rebounds per game.

14: From 1955 to 1969, Russell won 14 titles (11 NBA Finals, two NCAA championships and one Olympic gold medal), and was part of an NBA record eight straight titles for the Celtics from 1959-66.

2: Russell is one of just two players in NBA history to have 20,000-plus rebounds in their career, ranking second all-time with 21,620 total rebounds behind Chamberlain (23,924).

22.5: Russell’s average of 22.5 rebounds per game is more than nine rebounds more than today’s active leader in rebounds per game (Andre Drummond, 13.3).

24.9: Despite Chamberlain’s leading Russell in all-time rebounds per game, the Celtics icon tops Chamberlain in average rebounds per game in the playoffs, averaging a record 24.9 per game.

10: Russell averaged 20-plus rebounds per game 10 times in his career, tied with Chamberlain for the most 20-plus rebound seasons in NBA history. Aside from Chamberlain and Russell, there have only been five seasons where a player averaged 20 or more rebounds per game.

13: In each of Russell’s 13 NBA seasons, he averaged more rebounds than points per game.

644: Russell had 644 games with 20-plus rebounds, a remarkable 67% of his NBA games played in the regular season. In the 2021-22 NBA season, there were just 38 games with 20-plus rebounds across the league.

2009: In 2009, the league renamed the NBA Finals MVP award the “Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award” in salute to his historic career.

5: Not limited to just NBA success, Russell is one of five players in NCAA history to average at least 20 points and 20 rebounds per game in his career.

60: While at the University of San Francisco, Russell helped guide the Dons to 60 consecutive wins, which included two national championships and the first NCAA tournament champion to record a perfect season.

10: The ultimate winner, Russell was 10-0 in Game 7s in his NBA career.

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