Skip to main content

Bill Russell Quotes to Inspire You From a Basketball Icon

On3 imageby:Dan Morrison04/28/22


Today, some basketball fans will try to dismiss Bill Russell as winning against unathletic players. The suggestion is that it must have been easy for Russell to win 11 NBA championships because of the competition he was up against. This goes against the theory that you need to judge players on the era they played in, as changes in player development, funding and conditioning all make true comparisons difficult. Worse, this tends to minimize Russell’s importance to the NBA’s history. Bill Russell is one of the first superstars in the NBA to be a Black man and while he was a player-coach for the Boston Celtics, he became the first Black coach to win a championship in North American sports.

Bill Russell competed in the face of racism and even had an FBI file open on him in the same vein as other civil rights leaders. In that amazing career as a player, coach, and civil rights leader Bill Russell, naturally, produced some amazing quotes.

10 Best Quotes From Bill Russell

  1. “To love someone is nothing, to be loved by someone is something, to love someone who loves you is everything.”
  2. “Most people have a harder time letting themselves love than finding someone to love them.”
  3. “Durability is part of what makes a great athlete.”
  4. “I don’t have very many regrets, not because I lived a perfect life, but because life is a bunch of rolling hills, not mountains, or speed bumps instead of stop signs, and so you come to a situation and it’s neither good or bad. It just is, and what it means to you is what’s your take on it. But the second part of the equation is what are you going to do about it. A lot of times I’m completely wrong, but all you do is back up and start over.”
  5. “The idea is not to block every shot. The idea is to make your opponent believe that you might block every shot.”
  6. “Friendship is a full-time job.”
  7. “My most prized possession was my library card from the Oakland Public Library.”
  8. “I’ve been fortunate to meet and work with a lot of really smart people. The thing that strikes me most about them is how they continue to explore and learn every day. I have tried to apply that approach in my modest career as well.”
  9. “The most important thing to me is the friends that I’ve made.”
  10. “If you really have integrity, there are very few people who can insult you, or honor you.”

Inspirational Quotes From Russell

  • “Concentration and mental toughness are the margins of victory.”
  • “You can do anything you want to do if you want it bad enough.”
  • “Commitment separates those who live their dreams from those who live their lives regretting the opportunities they have squandered.”
  • “We learn to make a shell for ourselves when we are young and then spend the rest of our lives hoping for someone to reach inside and touch us. Just touch us — anything more than that would be too much for us to bear.”

Leadership Quotes From Bill Russell

  • “You got to have the killer instinct. If you do not have it, forget about basketball and go into social psychology or something. If you sometimes wonder if you’ve got it, you ain’t got it. No pussycats, please.”
  • “Learning is a daily experience and a lifetime mission. I truly believe in the saying ‘We work to become, not to acquire.'”
  • “If a guy pays you $5, you give him $7 worth of work.”
  • “Remember that basketball is a game of habits. If you make the other guy deviate from his habits, you’ve got him.”

Funny Quotes From Russell

  • “If Shakespeare can compare all of life to a stage, maybe it’s not odd to believe that part of the play can take place on a basketball court.”
  • “Incompetence should not be confined to one sex (on female officials in the NBA).”
  • “After I played him for the first time, I said ‘Let’s see. He’s four or five inches taller. He’s 40 or 50 pounds heavier. His vertical leap is at least as good as mine. He can get up and down the floor as well as I can. And he’s smart. The real problem with all this is I have to show up.”

Team Attitude Quotes From Bill Russell

  • “The most important measure of how good a game I played was how much better I’d made my teammates play.”
  • “Create unselfishness as the most important team attribute.”
  • “Heart in champions has to do with the depth of our motivation and how well your mind and body react to pressure — that is, being able to do what you do best under maximum pain and stress.”
  • “The morale and the camaraderie that we had for one another earlier in the year is starting to come under duress because of all the losses. Some of the guys are feeling the pressure now from the last year when they were not successful.”

Success Quotes From Russell

  • “Success is a result of consistent practice of winning skills and actions. There is nothing miraculous about the process. There is no luck involved.”
  • “To me, the most important part of winning is joy. You can win without joy, but winning that’s joyless is like eating in a four-star restaurant when you’re not hungry. Joy is a current of energy in your body, like chlorophyll or sunlight, that fills you up and makes you naturally want to do your best.”
  • “The magic to a great meeting is all of the work that’s done beforehand.”
  • “I hope I epitomize the American dream. For I came against long odds, from the ghetto to the very top of my profession. I was not immediately good at basketball. It did not come easy. It came as the result of a lot of hard work and self-sacrifice. The rewards, were they worth it? One thousand times over.”
  • “The only important statistic is the final score.”