The Warriors were going to take the day off on Tuesday, part of coach Mark Jackson’s win-and-rest philosophy. But Monday night, he got word that a special guest was in town and coming to practice. So Jackson changed plans and held practice.
The guest was Bill Russell.
JACKSON: “Unbelievable. I’m speechless. It meant a lot to my guys. It’s just unbelievable. It really is unbelievable. As a young kid dreaming of being in this position … It’s truly a blessing.”
Russell was in town for a visit at McClymonds High School, his alma mater. The Hall of Famer and the Warriors were unveiling the school’s renovated team room, weight room and aerobics room. Highlighting the occasion was the revealing of the McClymond’s High School Wall of Champions honoring the school’s rich athletic history. Russell, who attended McClymonds from 1949-53, spoke before Harrison Barnes and Jarrett Jack headed a basketball clinic.
But before heading to his former stomping grounds, Russell spoke at the Warriors’ practice. He addressed the team then sat down for some one-on-one time with Jackson.
Clearly, Russell is one of the figures who brings out the kid in the NBA legend.
JACKSON: “(He told) a bunch of stories, a bunch of incredible stories, testifying on struggles, success, growing up … Acknowledging the fact that (the torch) was passed. No matter how many people it was passed through, it got to me. He was telling me how proud he is. I’ve got to be held accountable for doing the same exact thing all these years removed. Some folks will come after me and I’m going to honor that. It’s a privilege.”
Jackson said the players appreciated the moment. Golden State is one of the youngest teams in the league. But he said they were engaged and excited. It didn’t hurt that Russell had positive things to say about the Warriors. Jackson said Russell watches three or four games per night, so he’s seen quite a few Warriors games.
JACKSON: “Even though I’ve got young guys, I’ve got men that respect history and they are certainly well aware of his body of work. They’re certainly well aware of the fact that his presence, the way he conducted himself, he put us in position. Whether you’re a player or coach whatever, he’s a guy that made this life possible as professional athletes. They’re well aware of it. It was great to see. It wasn’t like a substitution teacher speaking to the class and everybody’s mumbling. All eyes were on Mr. Russell.”