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How to Win

The Greatest Celtic

“Winning isn’t everything, but the will to win is everything.” — Vince Lombardi

St. Patrick’s Day marks a perfect time to discuss the greatest Celtic of them all.

Bill Russell is more than just a Hall of Fame basketball player; he is one of the greatest winners in the history of North American sport. His resume includes two college titles, an Olympic gold medal, and 11 championships with the Boston Celtics.

“The guy killed us. He’s the one who prevented us from achieving true greatness,” said “Hot Rod” Hundley, a member of Los Angeles Laker teams constantly thwarted by Russell.

Few players in any sport owned the mental game that Russell did. Barely able to make his school team as a young man, he improved by observing, analyzing and making adjustments. And his focus was simple: He wanted to win.

“Concentration and mental toughness are the margins of victory.” Russell said.

Here’s Russell analyzing his legendary opponent, Wilt Chamberlain:

“After I played him for the first time, I said, ‘Let’s see. He’s four or five inches taller. He’s 40 or 50 pounds heavier. His vertical leap is at least as good as mine. He can get up and down the floor as well as I can. And he’s smart. The real problem with all this is I have to show up.’”

But Russell showed up. And he figured out ways to win. Among his quotes is this telling observation:

“The idea is not to block every shot. The idea is to make your opponent believe that you might block every shot.”

It was a mind game that Russell won again and again.

Coach Tully’s Extra Point: Only one school — the University of San Francisco — offered Russell a college scholarship. He took it.


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