Bill Russell Rumors


It was April 5, 1968, the day after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on the Lorraine Motel balcony in Memphis, when Oscar Robertson, head of the National Basketball Players Association, picked up the phone. Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals between Bill Russell’s Celtics and Wilt Chamberlain’s Sixers was scheduled for that night in Philadelphia. And while there were talks among players on those teams about not playing, the game went on as planned. Still, Robertson wanted to recognize King with a tribute. Some of his contemporaries had met the minister; others attended speeches as they grew more politically active in the ’60s. So Robertson spoke with Larry Fleisher, the union’s counsel, and then started dialing the phone number of each team’s player representative to talk about what could be done to contribute to King’s cause.