Lakers News: Jerry West Compares Bill Russell to Dodgers Great Jackie Robinson

Former Lakers guard Jerry West, who spent his career battling with former Celtic center Bill Russell, spends some time giving his thoughts on the late NBA icon.

The storied rivalry between the Lakers and the Celtics date back to a time most of us were not able to witness as a live sporting event. Fans today usually mention the rivalry between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird in the ’80s, but the history began with Jerry West and Bill Russell in the ’60s. 

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West and the Lakers played against Russell’s Celtics six times in the Finals that decade and lost every single finals series. West averaged 33 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.9 assists in 38 games against the Celtics in the NBA finals in his career (via StatMuse).

The Celtics got the best of the Lakers early rivalry, but West always showed his respect to Russell. With the recent news of the passing of Russell, West reflected on Russell’s lasting legacy and even compared him to one of baseball’s greatest trail blazers of all time, Jackie Robinson (quotes via Bill Plashke, The LA Times).

“In every generation people make a difference not only with their play, but also with their persona. Bill Russell and Jackie Robinson were in that same class.”

Elite is the only way to describe Russell. Not only are his accolades transcending through all generations, but to also do it as a black athlete during such a horrid time of racial prejudice speaks volumes of his strength, character and integrity. 

“You look at everything he went through in Boston as a Black man and you think, if he didn’t have the great success, how would he be treated?”

The world lost a great man and basketball player, and for West, a great friend and role model. Without Russell and his fight, the NBA landscape would not be anywhere near what it is today. 

“He was born for those moments. In some respects, what he did off the court was more magnified than what he did on the court.”

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