Bill Russell had non-emergency open heart surgery about three weeks ago Russell told John Hareas of NBA Entertainment. Russell said he needed to have a valve replaced in his heart and went in for relatively routine surgery to correct it. As Russell said, open-heart surgery sounds pretty serious but this was a non-emergency procedure.
The surgery has kept Russell from doing his normal summer activities. He missed his charity golf tournament in New York, the last time he says he will miss it, and has been generally incapacitated as he rehabs from the surgery.
Russell, the NBA's most decorated champion, is really one of the last links to the NBA's early days. He won 12 championships and was the bedrock of the Boston Celtics championship run of the 1960s. His battles with Wilt Chamberlain are the stuff of NBA lore and Russell is often the standard by which all other centers are compared (even if history declares they are better than him).
Russell is a treasure as he can give us all proper perspective on the history of the NBA and its pre-glory days. Russell, after all, played in the era of commercial plane rides and th elast remnants of segregation — a reality Russell spoke up against in his time in the NBA.
As the NBA.com interview gets into, Russell watched the Olympic basketball team and found the comparisons between the Dream Team and the 2012 team a bit pointless.
I have this theory that it's impossible to play against ghosts — past, present or future. That kind of discussion is for non-participants. It's like video games. Whenever someone would ask me how I would play against this guy or that guy, I always thought that it was like playing against ghosts. Past, present and future and I never get into that discussion. You can only play against your contemporaries.
Basketball — out of all of the sports — is the most evolving. Whoever the best player is, that's how the game is played for a generation.
You never hear the name George Mikan being discussed. But George Mikan won five championships in six years and where does that put him among the all-time greatest players? You can't do it because the game is always changing. The game is dictated by centers. You had Mikan, Wilt, Kareem. Then you build off that with the forwards, Elgin, Larry Bird. Then there is Michael and the guards.
Each era produces a style of play. For someone to say this style of play is better than this style of play, that person doesn't know what they are talking about. So, I never get into that discussion.
Russell is still watching basketball and still thinking about the game. It is a great thing that he is healthy and feeling well. His perspective and his general presence in the NBA is something fans should treasure.
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