NBA analyst Bill Simmons reckons Bill Russell always needed to be two or three chess moves ahead of the opposition. Russell took his last breath on Sunday at the age of 88 years and since then condolences and praise have poured in for him.
Russell had a strong Basketball IQ and he was regarded as one of the smartest players in the game during his heydays. The legendary player led Boston Celtics to 11 NBA titles during his 13 year stint with the team as he ticked all the right boxes. Eight of his 11 NBA rings came on the bounce.
Furthermore, Russell had the knack of leading from the front and many thought he was a player ahead of his time. The talisman was mentally tough and he was always able to get the best out of his players.
Bill Simmons said on his podcast, “Before every game, he worked himself into what he described a “rage.” He spent the day visualizing that night’s game, thinking about his opponent, playing out sequences in his head, revving himself up. And if you think of basketball like chess, it makes more sense. Russell always needed to be two or three chess moves ahead of everyone else.”
Simmons believes Russell mentally played every game situation in his head before he stepped on the court.
“By the time he had slipped on his Celtics uniform, Russell had already played out every game possibility on his head. Carrying that knowledge into the game and then executing it required an unfathomable amount of mental energy…If you think of Russell as a genius, which he was, then it makes more sense.”
Simmons revealed that Russell could dissect an entire NBA game even if it took place 50 years ago.
Sharing an anecdote on the same, Simmons said, “One time, Russell’s third wife found one of his college games on eBay. She bought the DVD and surprised him with it. They watched it that night. Russell’s San Francisco team playing Oregon State. And guess what?”
“Bill Russell could rattle off every play before it happened, not a few of the plays, not half the plays, every play! For a random college game that happened in 1955, at least four decades before he watched the game again.”