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Sunday, February 15, 2009

NBA Finals MVP Trophy Named After Bill Russell

Bill Russell's name is synonymous with winning, so it is most fitting that the NBA Finals MVP Award will now be called "The Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award." Russell led the Boston Celtics to 11 NBA championships in his 13 season career but he never won the Finals MVP--but that was not a personal slight: the NBA issued that award for the first time in 1969, Russell's last season, and Jerry West received the honor even though his Lakers lost to Russell's Celtics in seven games; West overcame various injuries to produce 42 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists in game seven, thus becoming the first (and still the only) player from the losing team to win the Finals MVP.

The announcement about adding Russell's name to the award came during NBA Commissioner David Stern's annual All-Star Weekend press conference. Russell's wife Marilyn recently passed away but the NBA let her know about this honor before she died. Russell spoke to the assembled media and said, "This is one of the proudest moments in basketball because I determined early in my career the only important statistic in basketball is the final score." Russell did not play the game in order to win individual awards and he noted that in his second season the league's players voted him regular season MVP but the writers and broadcasters placed him on the All-NBA Second Team.

Russell would certainly have been worthy of winning many, many Finals MVPs had that award existed throughout his career but the important point is that he would never have changed his game in a way that would have negatively affected his team simply to chase after personal accolades.

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posted by David Friedman @ 4:45 AM

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