RIGHT. WHO KNOWS? No one knows, no one knows. It happened in 1950. Three guys — no one knows their names, really. And Russell — he comes in December of '56. He's the 22nd black player to play in the league, but he's the first superstar. And he comes off — winning two back-to-back national titles in college, he comes off the Olympic team. He's the first, really, celebrity black player coming into the NBA. And he's like a generation before his time, in the sense that he's a social activist in a lot of ways. He will not do the traditional things that people expect black athletes to do, to be essentially servile. There's a thing on the Celtics where the rookies were supposed to carry the basketballs out to practice everyday and he said "no." And they were supposed to fetch sodas for the veterans and he said "no." Three or four years into his career, in the early '60s, he starts to talk about racism in Boston. People thought he was crazy. To me, he was an Ali before Ali in a lot of ways. He was saying the same things, [though] he didn't have the personal charisma or the personal magnetism Ali had.

WHEN I WAS GROWING UP IN THE '80s, THE CELTICS WERE STILL THE "WHITE TEAM." NO SELF-RESPECTING BLACK KID I WENT TO SCHOOL WITH WOULD BE A CELTICS FAN. DOES THAT ASSOCIATION STILL LINGER? Well, it's this great irony. The Celtics were the first team to put five blacks on the court at the same time, which they did in '63. And back in the '60s they were the black team, basically, because of Russell and Sam Jones and K.C. Jones and Tom Sanders — that's what they were. And so in the '80s — there's a tremendous irony — they became kind of known as White America's team. Does that still linger? No, no more.

DO THE CELTICS WIN IT ALL THIS YEAR? I think if they stay healthy, they do.

David Scharfenberg

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