Remember When Boston Celtics Icon Bill Russell Appeared on These TV Shows?
By now, you’ve heard the unparalleled and unmatchable resume of William Felton Russell, Boston Celtics legend and civil rights pioneer. Russell bravely used his hardwood prowess to advocate for racial equality and progressive causes.
But he also used it to have some fun.
While Russell retired from professional basketball in 1969, he continued to appear on television in the 70s and 80s – and not just as an analyst for the NBA on CBS.
The man with more rings than fingers, famous for his wit and ensuing cackle, rode his knack for showmanship to guest roles on several hit series.
In 1986, Russell roamed a different type of court as a judge in the original “Miami Vice.” But things take a turn when he sets a suspiciously low bail…hence the episode’s title, “The Fix.”
In 1981, Russell made his big-screen debut opposite Gary Coleman as a health club manager named Robert in “On The Right Track.”
That same year, he also appeared on the basketball-centric “White Shadow,” seemingly more comfortable in an easier role: a basketball legend named Bill Russell.
As himself, Russell also made two appearances on the classic comedy/variety show “Laugh-In.” Perhaps that is where he met a young writer named Lorne Michaels who, in 1979, would ask Russell to host “Saturday Night Live.”
In addition to a confident monologue, Russell also appeared in the sketches “The Black Shadow,” “Obscure Sports Questions,” and “Barry White’s Big & Tall.” You read right: for one precious week, Studio 8H played host to Mr. Bill and Mr. Russell.
Russell’s memorable acting endeavors no doubt inspired other American athletes of the mid-20th Century to trade in playbooks for playbills.
Here’s a look at other famous Celtics who showed off their acting chops: