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The time I practically bought Bill Russell’s autograph

The passing of Invoice Russell introduced back a rush of recollections of my try to get the basketball icon’s autograph in a put where few die-really hard New York Knicks lovers would have dared to enter. But I am obtaining in advance of the story.

It was the spring of 1966. I was with a several good friends at a Knicks-Boston Celtics sport at the previous Madison Sq. Backyard on the west side of Eighth Ave. between 49th and 50th Sts. As a childhood autograph hound, I determined to check out for some star basketball player signatures. I opted for the Celtics, rivals of my property team since they very first achieved in 1946.

In close proximity to the finish of the sport, I positioned myself at the base of the walkway off the court, a put where by today’s MSG security guards would in no way permit supporters to breach.

As the match ended, the players rushed by, and then created a still left change down a extensive, dimly lit passageway to their dressing place. I acquired in front of Donald Arvid Nelson, the 6′6″ little forward who went on to later on turn into one particular of the winningest coaches in NBA background.

He explained, ”All right. Appear and see me soon after I get dressed.” Then he was absent.

Before long all that was remaining in the region ended up protection personnel. There was a close by door with the signal, “NY Rangers Uniforms.” I opened it and there ended up racks of jerseys everywhere you go. I hid there for what seemed an eternity and then reached into my pocket for some paper.

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I headed down the very long passageway, folded the paper, approached the MSG guard in entrance of the dressing place doorway, and stated, “I have a telegram for Don Nelson and he requested me to provide it to him.”

When the guard opened the doorway, I witnessed an incredible scene: massive giants in a condition of full exhaustion, quite a few slumped over, sitting on extensive benches devoid of relocating. Some had their gigantic legs in enormous barrels of ice amidst the very hot, steamy air. Some others had been obtaining their shoulders, backs and knees massaged by trainers.

I sat down future to Nelson, who was tying his shoes, and recurring his instruction to me. He politely signed my autograph reserve. I appeared up and there have been the terrific K.C. Jones and Sam Jones, extraordinary players. Both of those Celtic legends signed my ebook. John Havlicek was by now dressed and at the door.

But then “the one most devastating pressure in the historical past of the match,” in accordance to his longtime coach Pink Auerbach, emerged from the shower area. It was William Felton Russell, the Celtics’ heart, who altered the activity with his brilliant defensive and workforce-building skills. Bill Russell, who later on turned the to start with Black NBA head mentor and a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient for his exemplary civil legal rights work.

At the time, Russell was perfectly-regarded for his refusal to sign autographs for lovers or even for his own group members, disdaining these kinds of adulation. But there he was, wrapped in just a white towel, standing each and every little bit as tall as his 6′10″ frame, with that unbelievable wingspan that blocked so a lot of basketball pictures.

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I politely designed my ask for. He looked down and loudly mentioned, “Who are you with, child?” For a moment I turned to Don Nelson, who experienced presently fulfilled his obligation. He was not about to intervene. The terrific basketball legend shouted, “Get the f—k out of in this article!” I correctly and somewhat unexpectedly complied.

I emerged from the Celtics dressing area with three out of 4 All-Star signatures. Not lousy for a lifelong Knicks admirer who are unable to hold out for the working day when we return to the playoffs and defeat the Celtics on the way to the championship.

Hershenson is a Knicks admirer.


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