Boston Celtics

This Date in NBA History (Dec. 22): Bill Russell begins historic NBA career with Boston Celtics in 1956

On Dec. 22, 1956, NBA legend Bill Russell made his debut.

Russell played his first game for the Boston Celtics at home against the St. Louis Hawks. Playing 21 minutes, he finished with six points and 16 rebounds as the Celtics won a close one, 95-93.

It was the start of a Hall of Fame career, one in which Russell accumulated numerous accolades - some of which players haven't been able to match to this date.

His 11 NBA titles are the most by any NBA player ever, all coming during Boston's dynasty of the late 1950s and 1960s. He played the role of player-coach during the final two championships of the run in 1968 and 1969, becoming the first-ever African-American head coach in a major professional sports league.

The incredible number of championships led to the NBA naming the Finals MVP after Russell during the 2009 All-Star Weekend.

Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has won more regular-season MVP awards than Russell's five, but the 6-foot-10 centre also fought a battle off the court - one of social justice and racial inequality - that mattered even more.

MORE: How Russell & other NBA legends laid groundwork for social activism

With his impact on and off the court, it comes as no surprise that Russell was the first recipient of the NBA's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017.

Other notable events in NBA history

  • In 1996, Karl Malone became the 11th NBA player ever to register 20,000 points and 10,000 rebounds for their career. He passed the record in a 100-94 Jazz road loss in Cleveland.
  • In 2007, Gilbert Arenas erupted for 54 points against Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns. His blockbuster effort helped the Washington Wizards register the overtime road win, 144-139. This was his second game of scoring at least 50 points in the span of less than a week after he scored a career-high 60 points against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in Los Angeles.
  • In 2017, James Harden went off for 51 points against the visiting LA Clippers. His game-high tally went in vain as the Rockets lost the game, 128-118. It was Harden's second consecutive 51-point game with the first one, against the Los Angeles Lakers, also resulting in a loss.

Recent game-winning buzzer-beater on Dec. 22

Andre Iguodala vs. Memphis Grizzlies in 2007

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