Video: NBA All-Stars take a moment to celebrate Bill Russell’s 80th birthday
The break between the first and second quarters of a nationally televised NBA game is typically reserved for a bite-sized sideline interview, in which one of the game’s coaches speaks briefly and vaguely about his team’s performance. The annual All-Star Game, though, is anything but typical. When preparing to start the second quarter during Sunday’s exhibition, the entire Smoothie Train Center — All-Stars included — instead wished and sang NBA legend Bill Russell a happy 80th birthday.
On a weekend that can sometimes overwhelm with prepackaged entertainment, the players’ greetings with Russell seemed endearingly sincere. It was all simple; shared smiles, a few laughs, dozens of handshakes, and one back rub from Joakim Noah for good measure. Yet those moments of genuine warmth in celebration of one of the greatest to ever play made for a terrific intermission, particularly during what amounts to a festival of the game.
On top of it all, Russell’s moment doubled as a perfect opportunity for TNT’s Craig Sager to relay the Hall of Famer’s thoughts on LeBron James’ much-debated choices for the NBA’s Mount Rushmore — of which Russell was noticeably absent.
Before the game, LeBron James was talking to Bill Russell and Bill said “Hey, thank you for leaving me off your Mount Rushmore — I’m glad you did. Basketball is a team game, it’s not for individual honors. I won back-to-back state championships in high school, back-to-back NCAA championships in college. I won an NBA championship my first year in the league, I won an NBA championship my last year, nine in between. And that, Mr. James, is etched in stone.”