Tuesday, March 5, 2013

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

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

After the 1962 title, Russell drove his two young sons to Louisiana in his brand-news, steel-gray Lincoln convertible. He carried $2,000 in his wallet. He owned five NBA championships, three MVP awards, and one of the richest contracts in professional sports. Yet upon crossing the Mason-Dixon Line, few restaurants or hotels accommodated blacks. “Daddy, can’t we stop?” the kids asked. “Daddy, I’m hungry.” They slept one night in the Lincoln. Russell foamed with frustration. Whatever his wealth, whatever his fame, he lived with Jim Crow.

In West Monroe, Russell avoided his mother’s grave, as always. He still felt abandoned by her. He remained wary of opening himself to others. But if his history scarred him, it also buttressed him. He soaked in the care of his aunts and cousins. He watched his boys follow around his still-vigorous grandfather. And he talked with the Old Man, though not about basketball. “He was interested in my career only as it affected my dignity and values,” recalled Russell. “Was I away from home too much to be a good father to the kids? Did I understand money? Was I at peace with myself?”

He was not. Russell soon conveyed an inner discontent. “Until today my life has been a waste,” he said that December. “What does all this mean?” he cried while surrounded by autograph-seekers at Madison Square Garden. “This is without depth. This is a very shallow thing.” He could have chosen a “constructive” profession, such as a doctor, architect, or politician. “I feel that playing basketball is just marking time. I don’t feel that this can be it for a man. I haven’t accomplished anything really. What contribution have I made of which I can be really proud?”

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