Tuesday, July 12, 2011
The meaning of Bill Russell's new home
By Zach Harper
Like so many celebrated sports legends, Bill Russell (perhaps the greatest champion in the history of professional team sports) is going to get his own statue commemorating his career and what he's meant to the Boston community and sports scene. But often we take for granted the placement of these statues. They're usually out in the areas around the new sporting arenas that were helped built through decades of legacy and winning from the individual's career.
Paul Flannery of WEEI.com helped champion the effort to bring a Bill Russell statue to the city of Boston. However, with Russell the statue takes on far more meaning than just celebrating the 11 championship rings he contributed in bringing to Boston in the 1950s and 1960s. Today, Flannery explains the extent of not only what Russell means to Boston but also where the placement of his statue is and the significance of its location:
Just before my deadline I took a trip to San Francisco. I walked over to the USF campus where the legend of Russell as a basketball player first began to take shape, but more importantly where the portrait of the young man took on even greater complexity and definition. I imagined the young Bill Russell putting his theories about the world to the test and setting the course for the rest of his exceptional life.
For the first time I felt an overwhelming sense of calm about my assignment and the piece I produced for the magazine flowed out of me like so much blood from an open wound. It took hours, not days, to work up an initial draft and when the piece ran in December there was an initial rush of positive reaction that proved ultimately fleeting. There it sat until President Obama made the case himself when he awarded Russell the Presidential Medal of Freedom in February.
From there the details did take care of themselves. The Celtics got together with the city and various civic leaders and lo and behold it got done in a matter of months. This, frankly, is as it should be because while Russell was the driving force behind the Celtics dynasty he belonged to the city as much as the basketball team. The championship banners provide an unassailable testament to his greatness as an athlete, but the impact he left on Boston has reverberated for generations.
Click this link to check out the rest of the post and what its placement in City Hall Plaza signifies.