Stern created a legacy that will live on forever for Bill Russell on Saturday.
(Ray Amati/NBAE/Getty Images)
It’s never a dull moment with NBA Commissioner David Stern, and as he held his annual press conference before All-Saturday tipped off, he had yet another trick up his sleeve. Although the Commissioner provided a full recap of everything occurring around the league, the main story of the event was the honoring of one of the greatest basketball legends of all-time.
Former Celtic and 11-time NBA Champion Bill Russell will have the NBA Finals MVP named after him from this season forward. Before this evening’s press conference, the Finals MVP was called just that, the “Finals MVP.”
Ironically, Russell was never named Finals MVP, partly because the award never came into fruition until the last season he won a title. The former defensive stalwart knew that this award was coming his way for some time, but he didn’t share the honor with anyone but his wife.
When hearing about the award and thinking about the inevitable encounter with the media Saturday, Russell said he took his hearing aids and tossed them in a drawer before he walked over to face them. When asked why he would do such a thing, the legend responded, “I like what I don’t hear.”
Of the award being named after him, Russell said, “It’s quite flattering. It’s one of my proudest moments in basketball.”
After that, he credited his teammates and his coach for his success. It was a bittersweet moment for Russell, whose wife and life partner, Marilyn, recently passed away.
“This is a bittersweet award,” he said as he broke down in tears. “I accept this for my teammates and for my coach, Red Auerbach.”
The Hall of Famer said that the only final statistic that ever mattered was the final score and that in the near future, he was going to visit his father’s grave to tell him about the accomplishment. It was a moving moment for everyone, as Russell broke down in front of the overflowing media room.
After Russell left the presser, head of the NBA Players Association, Billy Hunter took him place. After answering a littany of questions, Hunter mostly focused on the progress of the upcoming negotion of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement and how talks have seemed to be occurring in a postive manner.
After Huner left, Stern talked about the emerging market for the NBA in India, how the airing of the Finals will now take place at the earlier time of 8 p.m. ET and how Europe and China will most definitely particpate in NBA activities next fall.