Eleven-time NBA champion and Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell passed away at the age of 88 on Sunday; his top-5 scoring performances in the NBA are featured below. The 6’10” center was selected second overall by the St. Louis Hawks in the 1956 NBA Draft. However, he was then traded to the Celtics.
He spent his entire 13-year career with Boston. The Monroe, Louisiana native won five MVP awards (1958, 1961–1963 and 1965) and the 1963 NBA All-Star Game MVP award. To add to these accomplishments, he led the NBA in rebounds four times in his career: 1958, 1959, 1964 and 1965.
Bill Russell Top-5 Scoring Performances in the NBA
During the 1959-60 season, Bill Russell finished with a career-high 51 rebounds against the Syracuse Nationals. In addition to putting up 27 points, he also amassed 49 rebounds in the Celtics’ 112-100 win over the Pistons.
Russell and Wilt Chamberlain are the only two NBA players acquire over 50 rebounds in a game. Though, which games were his highest-scoring performances? Find out below.
5.) 32 points against Philadelphia Warriors — Jan. 31, 1958
On Jan. 31, 1958, in the Celtics’ 110-101 loss against the Philadelphia Warriors, Russell scored a then career-high 32 points in 42 minutes played. The 23-year-old finished shooting 14-for-21 (66.7%) from the field. Russell also ended his performance with 33 rebounds. The Celtics dropped to 33-15 for the season.
4.) 32 points versus Detroit Pistons — Nov. 9, 1958
Next, tying his career high in points on Nov. 9, 1958, Russell ended his outing with 32 points in the Celtics’ 136-133 loss to the Pistons. Along with accumulating 18 rebounds, the center closed out his performance shooting 12-for-15 (80%) at the free throw line. Months later, Russell received his first All-NBA First-Team selection of his professional playing career in 1959.
3.) 35 points over St. Louis Hawks — Nov. 14, 1961
Then, in the Celtics’ 119-117 road win versus the St. Louis Hawks on Nov. 9, 1958, Bill Russell scored 35 points in 48 minutes of action. Once again, the center led the C’s in rebounds with 18. He shot 13-of-18 (72.2%) from the floor and 9-for-16 (56.3) from the free throw line. Russell went on to win his third career MVP award and receive his third All-NBA Second-Team selection in 1962.
2.) 37 points against Philadelphia Warriors — Mar. 5, 1961
Moreover, in the Celtics’ 146-129 win over the Philadelphia Warriors on Mar. 5, 1961, the 6’10” big man scored a career-high 37 points in 48 minutes played. On top of finishing with 25 rebounds, Russell shot 17-for-34 (50%) from the floor and 3-for-3 (100%) at the free throw line. Boston improved to 52-22 for the season. He won his second MVP award this season.
1.) 37 points versus Los Angeles Lakers — Dec. 17, 1967
On Dec. 17, 1967, in the Celtics’ 123-117 win against the Lakers, Russell tied his career high in scoring with 37 points. The 33-year-old also shot 17-for-23 (73.9%) from the field and 3-for-9 (33.3%) at the free throw line. Plus, the center walked off the court with 19 rebounds and seven assists.
The 12-time All-Star will never be forgotten. Through 963 career games, Russell averaged 15.1 points, 22.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. He was named to four NBA anniversary teams: 25th, 35th, 50th and 75th. In 2017, he won the NBA Lifetime Achievement Award.
Bill Russell was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a player in 1975 and then in 2021 as a coach. The Celtics retired his No. 6 jersey in 1972. Should the NBA universally retire Russell’s No. 6 jersey? It would be the best way to honor his NBA legacy.