SI Vault
 
THE PANIC IS ON AGAIN
Bob Ottum
November 09, 1964
When pro basketball play starts, teams that meet the Boston Celtics fall prey to a strange malady—Russellphobia. The disease is back again this season, and it has helped the champions to a devastating start
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
November 09, 1964

The Panic Is On Again

When pro basketball play starts, teams that meet the Boston Celtics fall prey to a strange malady—Russellphobia. The disease is back again this season, and it has helped the champions to a devastating start

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2

In the second-half rout Auerbach demonstrated this by 1) sending everybody off the bench to play, 2) screaming with happy invective at the officials and 3) lighting up his cigar. At one convincing period in this halt the Celtics were wheeling smoothly with Russell and four players who at one time or another had been passed over by other teams before putting on the Celtic uniform. There was Willie Naulls, once considered too fat and slow, now a sleek prowler; Larry Siegfried, who scored 18 points in 22 minutes of play; Tom Sanders and K.C. Jones.

And when Coach Auerbach pointed at Counts with his cigar and growled, "Take off your jacket and get in there," the rookie ran right out, awkwardly, fiercely, and stole the first rebound he could get his hands on. The man he stole it from was (oops!) Bill Russell. But Russell knows the Celtic feeling himself; he strolled back to the bench and watched the youth play with a kind of bemused smile.

And thus the game ended and the season began—with Russell and Heinsohn sitting comfortably underneath that smoke cloud hanging threateningly low over the Celtic bench—with an unknown rookie, a gentle, polite, sweet boy, suddenly playing pro basketball and roaring like a King Kong. The score was 122-93 when it all ended. But the game set the pattern for the rest of the season. The Royals, who still must be counted as one of the toughest teams in the association, fell prey to the phobia that stalks the circuit. It looks like that kind of a year again.

1 2