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THE NEW PRO
There were three items on Bill Russell's agenda before he turned professional. He promised President Eisenhower he would represent his country in basketball at Melbourne. He promised to play two final games with the U.S. Olympic team in a Chicago tournament for the benefit of the 1960 Olympic Fund. And he wanted to marry pretty Rose Kathryn Swisher. Last weekend, with all these appointments completed, Russell signed a contract to play professionally for the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association, ending one of the most exciting careers in amateur basketball history.
In his long ascent to athletic fame, Bill Russell had to learn everything the hard way. He was still a gangling and growing boy of 6 feet 7 inches when-he arrived at the University of San Francisco, and, as he once explained, "I didn't know anything about basketball." But he repaid the patient efforts of his coach, Phil Woolpert, with hours and days of sweaty, bone-wearying work that turned him into one of the supreme college athletes of his time. When fame was finally his—at Melbourne (where he proved a real charmer) and last weekend in Chicago—he wore it over his 6-foot 10-inch frame with becoming modesty. Basketball—in fact, all sport—is better because of Bill Russell, and without doubt the Celtics will be better with him in the lineup.
A YEAR FOR BUILDING?
Although the Olympians had departed, the news from Australia was far from over—and far from encouraging. The reports had it that the U.S. Davis Cup team was dissatisfied with its practice facilities at Perth, but worse than that was the word that a shoulder injury had drastically reduced the effectiveness of Vic Seixas, the Old Reliable of the squad. Nobody, of course, honestly believed the Americans would lose the Interzone Finals to India, but just the same the stories from down under served as a handy reminder of an unhappy possibility.
Anyway, it's all over now, and following the American 4-1 victory, William F. Talbert, the U.S. nonplaying captain and SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S tennis columnist, cabled this report of the matches: "Just before our Davis Cup tie with India someone asked Naresh Kumar, the dapper playing captain of the Indians, if he had made airline reservations to take his team from Perth to Adelaide, where the Challenge Round will be played. Kumar showed an expanse of white teeth beneath his black pencil mustache and replied laughingly, 'No, as a matter of fact I haven't, but I am sure if we win Billy Talbert will let us avail ourselves of his tickets.'
"I am happy to say that this situation did not present itself, although there were some anxious moments for us all in that opening match when Herbie Flam was trying to stall off leg cramps and defeat at the same time. If India's very fine young player, Ramanathan Krishnan, had not also run out of steam in the fifth set—when he led Flam 3-2 in games and love-40 on Flam's service—there might have been a different story to tell. After Flam had staggered and puffed his way to a marathon victory, old Vic Seixas easily beat Kumar; and then the next day Vic teamed with Sam Giammalva to win the doubles and clinch the tie.
"I can't describe how much pressure this took off our boys. (Incidentally, gaining the Challenge Round meant $60,000 to the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association. For that's what the team can expect to bring back from Adelaide, where there is a guaranteed capacity crowd of 17,000 a day. This will pay the tremendous expenses of our trip: six players at $3,000 per man, or a total of $18,000.) Now we can point to the Australians without any distractions. It is a good feeling. We realize we are perhaps the biggest underdogs in the history of this great tennis competition. We feel sort of like a team of Davids going out against Goliath, but psychologically we have a lot going for us: we are expected to lose, so we can be loose and free and shoot the works. On the other hand, the Australians know they must win or be disgraced in the eyes of the tennis world. The pressure is heavy upon them, as the clich� goes.
"The question I must ask and answer before the first ball is hit at Adelaide Dec. 26 is: are Seixas and Flam capable of beating Lew Hoad and Ken Rosewall? If developments in practice during the next few days convince me that they are not capable of this achievement and that this Davis Cup battle is almost certain to go the way four of the last five have gone, then it may be incumbent upon me to throw in the youngsters [Giammalva and Mike Green] and mark it off to valuable experience. We have to start building some time. This may be the year."