|Irish Coffee: President Obama wants Bill Russell statue in Boston||02.16.11 at 11:58 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …
(NOTE: Between the 16:30 and 18:30 marks, President Obama speaks about Bill Russell; at the 35-minute mark, Russell receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom)
In a brilliant article in Boston Magazine, WEEI.com’s Paul Flannery stated the case for a statue in Bill Russell‘s honor in the streets of Boston. On Tuesday, President Barack Obama hopped on Flannery’s bandwagon. The following is a transcript of President Obama’s remarks as he awarded Russell the Presidential Medal of Freedom:
When Bill Russell was in junior high, he was cut from his basketball team. He got better after that. He led the University of San Francisco to two championships. In 13 seasons with the Boston Celtics, he won 11 championships — a record unmatched in any sport. Won two while also serving as the team’s coach. And so happens, he also was the first African-American ever to hold such a position as a coach in a major league sports team of any sort. More than any athlete of his era, Bill Russell came to define the word “winner.”
And yet, whenever someone looks up at all 6 feet, 9 inches of Bill Russell — I just did; I always feel small next to him — and asks, “Are you a basketball player?” — surprisingly, he gets this more than you think, this question — he says, “No.” He says, “That’s what I do, that’s not what I am. I’m not a basketball player. I am a man who plays basketball.”
Bill Russell, the man, is someone who stood up for the rights and dignity of all men. He marched with King; he stood by Ali. When a restaurant refused to serve the black Celtics, he refused to play in the scheduled game. He endured insults and vandalism, but he kept on focusing on making the teammates who he loved better players, and made possible the success of so many who would follow. And I hope that one day, in the streets of Boston, children will look up at a statue built not only to Bill Russell the player, but Bill Russell the man.
In honor of Russell receiving the highest civilian award given in the United States, The Boston Globe discussed Russell’s impact on and off the basketball court with Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino as well as Celtics legends Tommy Heinsohn and Bob Cousy, who spanned nine of Russell’s 13 seasons and nine of his 11 title runs:
- Menino: “This mention by the president will give us the impetus to start a campaign to make sure we have a statue. Bill Russell is one of the individuals who really made Boston work. He was here when Boston wasn’t a city friendly to minorities, and he led our city, and led our basketball team, and he was a great example.’’
- Heinsohn: “Bill Russell became the villain of Boston, which is totally unjustified after he did more to bring praise to the city than anybody. He was standing up as a black person in the Boston area, which was very difficult in those days, and somebody ought to recognize that. … It’s long overdue.’’
- Cousy: “I don’t think 11 championships in 13 years will ever be matched by anyone in American professional sports history, and the key member – the one most responsible – was Russ. He was underexposed and underpromoted when he played, and I’m very happy to see he’s getting the acknowledgement and the recognition he deserves.’’
So, can we get Bill Russell a damn statue already? The real shame in all of this is that Los Angeles just built a statue in honor of Jerry West before Boston has gotten around to honoring Russell. Now that Flannery and President Obama have both stated their cases, let’s hope their pleas don’t fall on deaf ears once again (by the way, I think I just came up with an idea for WEEI’s mid-day show: Flannery and Obama. What would top that?).
NBA TRADE RUMORS: CELTICS SEEK TROY MURPHY OR RIP HAMILTON
Speaking of Flannery, as he reported on Tuesday, Delonte West‘s scheduled return against the Nets on Wednesday night took a turn for the worse. West “tweaked” his injured wrist during practice and is scheduled to get X-rays prior to the Nets game, obviously putting his status in doubt. He reportedly also did not participate in the team’s shootaround on Wednesday morning.
Prior to that news, the C’s had already been in trade discussions as a result of the uncertainty surrounding Marquis Daniels‘ spinal cord injury. Those talks will heat up even more prior to the NBA trade deadline on Feb. 24 at 3 p.m.
According to Yahoo! Sports, two players that the Celtics have targeted are the Pistons’ Richard “Rip” Hamilton and the Nets’ Troy Murphy, both of whom could be available after the deadline and an ensuing buyout. Here’s the report:
Nets coach Avery Johnson made clear he didn’t want Murphy after the three-team trade that brought him from the Pacers. Trade talks have gone nowhere for Murphy, who has an expiring contract. Nets GM Billy King will ultimately work a buyout to free Murphy to sign elsewhere.
In addition to the Hornets, several other teams are expected to show interest in Murphy, including the Celtics, Heat, Magic and Mavericks, sources said. …
Hamilton will have to be willing to give back a significant portion of the two years, $25 million owed him to get a buyout on his contract. Sources said the Celtics still remain intrigued with Hamilton as a scorer off the bench.
Obviously, either of those guys would be a welcome addition to the Celtics’ locker room, considering their need to back up either Ray Allen or Paul Pierce off the bench. Stay tuned for more rumors.
DID DWYANE WADE DISS PAUL PIERCE?
Following the Celtics’ 85-82 victory against the Heat on Sunday, Paul Pierce said, “I’m just battling a couple minor injuries to my hand and my foot, so I think that explains my tentativeness and my off-shooting. I told Doc [Rivers] I really didn’t have it today, but I just tried to grind it out and thank goodness we came out with a win.”
An MRI on Pierce’s foot the following day returned negative, and he was cleared to play Wednesday. Rivers even told Dennis & Callahan, “ I don’t think it’s as serious as it’s made out to be.” It’s not the first time there’s been a little added drama around a Pierce injury; we all remember the wheelchair incident in Game 1 of the 2008 NBA Finals.
Heat guard Dwyane Wade hasn’t forgotten, either. Here’s what he told ESPN.com on Wednesday:
“I got treatment on many different body parts. I’m not crying about it or talking about it, it’s basketball. I’ll continue to get treatment and try to be as effective as I can to try and get healthy. When I get healthy, I’ll be ready to go. …
“My fans never know, the media never really know. I don’t really look for, ‘OK guys, I might have a bad night tonight because this is the reason.’ I’m not that guy. I’ve had great games when I haven’t felt good at all. I’ve had bad games when I’ve felt great. I’m all right, I’m playing.”
Asked if he was alluding to Pierce, Wade said, “I didn’t say anything.”
Based on Brian Windhorst’s interpretation of the discussion, Wade was making “a veiled swipe at Pierce.” Interpret it as you will, but the fact remains that Wade just talked about injuries while saying he doesn’t talk about injuries.
RECORD TV RATINGS FOR THE NBA
We’ve discussed this topic in this space before, but the TV ratings for the NBA are illustrating the league’s popularity is reaching an all-time high. That fact is going to make NBA commissioner David Stern‘s demand for a 40 percent decrease in players’ salaries awfully tough in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement.
According to TV by the Numbers, “the NBA on TNT is the most watched season in Turner’s 27 years of airing NBA coverage.” After 36 games of coverage, the NBA on TNT has produced the following numbers:
- An average of a 1.5 U.S. rating (up 32 percent from last season)
- An average of 2,416,000 total viewers (up 36 percent from last season)
- An average of 1,796,000 households (up 33 percent from last season)
- 531,000 (28 percent) more viewers than the next best regular-season audience, in 1995-96
- Opening night between the Heat and Celtics was TNT’s most-watched regular-season NBA game of all time (4.6 rating, 7.3 million viewers & 5.3 million households)
- Lebron James‘ return to Cleveland was the second-most watched game (4.2 rating, 7.1 million viewers & 4.9 million households)
NBA & MAKE-A-WISH TEAM UP AGAIN
The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Maine will award 15-year-old Celtics fan Brandon Higgins his dream of attending the NBA All-Star Game, which will feature four of the C’s starting five.
“Brandon loves basketball and followed the Celtics religiously,” his mother, Louanne Higgins, said in a prepared statement released by the Make-A-Wish Foundation. “We bought him a ticket to a game for Christmas, and while he was on his way down to Boston, he became very sick and couldn’t go. That’s when we knew something was wrong.”
You can both follow and donate to Higgins’ battle with an inoperable, cancerous tumor on his brain stem on the website www.brandonsrecovery.com.
Last season, Kevin Garnett took 19-year-old Joanna Johnson as his guest on the Eastern Conference’s team bus to practice, and then introduced the Crohn’s disease patient to his All-Star teammates on behalf of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Not even Suns coach Alvin Gentry could knock Garnett for that.
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