Thursday, February 28, 2013

the last book I ever read (King of the Court: Bill Russell and the Basketball Revolution, excerpt six)

from King of the Court: Bill Russell and the Basketball Revolution by Aram Goudsouzian:

The opening games at Kezar Pavilion confirmed the preseason prognostications. Decked in modish new warm-ups with gold capes, USF stretched its winning streak to twenty-nine games by dismantling Chico State, University of Southern California, and San Francisco State. Russell looked dominant. On offense, he operated more from the high post, opening space for drives through the wider lane. He averaged nearly a point per minute played, and Woolpert pulled him out halfway through each rout. On defense, he delighted the hometown fans with effortless swats. “It was like a big boy playing keep-away with small boys,” marveled Sports Illustrated. USF seemed nearly invincible.

After final exams the team embarked on a sixteen-day, seven-game tour across the country. It began in Chicago at the DePaul Invitational Tournament, the old stomping grounds of George Mikan. The great center had attended DePaul from 1941 to 1945 before joining the pros. When Russell was a fifteen-year-old third-string center for the McClymonds junior varsity, he watched his first professional game, an exhibition featuring the Minneapolis Lakers. After the game, Mikan saw the gangly black kid outside the locker room. “How ya’ doin’, big fella?” asked Mikan. He talked to Russell for fifteen minutes, urging him to keep playing basketball. From that day on, Russell idolized Mikan.

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