Your selection of Bill Russell as Sportsman of the Year in the Dec. 23 issue is by far the best yet. The choice must have been a very difficult one, for basketball is not usually in the limelight. But, as anyone who follows sports knows, Russell surmounted a myriad of obstacles in regaining his stature as a champion. The award is a tremendous tribute to an incomparable athlete.
In this Olympic year, with such outstanding performances provided by Bob Beamon, Bill Toomey and others, it seems incredible to me that you would once again select a professional as Sportsman of the Year. I don't wish to detract from the abilities of Bill Russell, but I imagine this latest award means about as much to him as a newsstand copy of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. A professional has his salary to sustain his sports drive, but an amateur deserves recognition for uncompensated achievement.
Santa Barbara, Calif.
•For Russell's reaction to the award, see page 5.—ED.
Your superb selection of Bill Russell as Sportsman of the Year stands and shall stand as a supreme standard for sports selections for several decades!
Bill Russell is the tallest athlete in talent in the 20th century.
He has never had an equal as an athlete. No sports immortal of the past or present has ever done for his team or for himself what Russell has done.
H. C. BROWN JR.
Bill Russell has been and still is one of the great athletes of the decade. More significantly, perhaps, he is a superb sportsman, with all the attributes being a sportsman encompasses. He is a sterling competitor—performing at his best when it counts the most. In another year Bill Russell might well have deserved the award which you gave him for 1968. In 1968, however, the honor rightfully belongs to Bill Toomey.
Sport, in its traditional and most exalted sense, is the triumph of one man when this man confronts the most challenging of physical circumstances and with his own physical ability is able to prevail.
Bill Toomey, by winning the decathlon in Mexico City, did just this. He subjected himself, both in body and in psyche, to the most grueling confrontation which any sportsman can experience. Toomey won his event in the 1968 Olympics pulling away. He did not back into his unparalleled victory; his triumph was more resounding by virtue of the fact that he won the 1,500-meter run—the final event of the decathlon—to clinch his gold medal.
I cannot believe that it was a mere oversight on the part of the magazine hierarchy in failing to designate Toomey as the Sportsman of the Year. (Additionally, there was not even mention of Toomey in your listing of those who were in contention for the award.) I am dismayed by the only remaining conclusion, that your philosophy of sport does not give precedence to an achievement of the magnitude of Bill Toomey's.
New Haven, Conn.