Bill Russell sees his Celtics in Spurs
by Sam Amick, USA TODAY Sports
MIAMI — Bill Russell doesn’t need to see the San Antonio Spurs win their fifth championship to know why it all has worked so well, how this dynasty was forged.
As was the case during his unforgettable era with the Boston Celtics, Russell says it always is about the man in the middle. Tim Duncan, the special kid from the Virgin Islands whose best teammate was his coach and who could take his legacy to a whole new level if the Spurs down the Miami Heat in Game 7 of the NBA Finals on Thursday (9 p.m. ET, ABC), is still their everything after all these years.
Fourteen years after his first ring came with the likes of David Robinson on his side and Patrick Ewing on the other, Duncan could use another 30-point, 17-rebound outing like he had in Game 6 to help seal this deal. But Russell, who told Duncan five years ago that the Spurs star was the player who most reminded him of himself, will see him as a once-in-a-generation player even if he doesn’t.
“Playing with Tim Duncan creates great opportunities,” said Russell ,who sat down with USA TODAY Sports after an appearance on NBA TV before Game 6. “Certain things happen, and it frees certain players.
“He has the same kinds of skills (as me). He creates problems for the other team on both offense and defense. One of his attributes that most people don’t recognize is his passing. And I don’t think there’s anybody in the league who can guard him one on one. … A guy like Tim Duncan gives a coach a wide range of things you can do. Tim can play with almost anybody, and there are a lot of guys who can’t do that.”
All these years later, the 11-time champion and Boston Celtics legend only hangs two team pictures in his home office: the ’57 Celtics, his first team, and the ’69 Celtics, his last. It’s a testament to the colossal role he played in their unmatched success, as he is the only Celtics player who was a member of both teams.