Bill Russell defeated Tom Jolla of La Salle before torturing the Wilt Chamberlain Warriors and 76 r.

It’s testimony to Bill Russell that one of the most underrated aspects of his life is that he revolutionized college basketball. His work and activism within the civil rights movement, his remarkable career with the Boston Celtics, his well-deserved status as the biggest winner in team sports in North America: these qualities and accomplishments are listed and lauded, rightly, in the immediate aftermath of He passed away last Sunday. They gave his pass an echo in Philadelphia as well, as did his role as an opponent of two of the city’s basketball legends. One of them was Hector the day he changed the sport forever.

Read more: Wilt Chamberlain vs. Bill Russell: Thinking about the NBA’s #1 solo rivalry

For those who grew up rooting for Warriors or 76ers, Russell was the A certain type of competitor. He possessed… Something – Irresistible will to win? hardness? not selfish? All these qualities and more? – that Wilt Chamberlain did not have and the opponents of the Celtics could not overcome him. Red Auerbach was lighting a victory cigar and schadenfreude, which made him easy to hate, but had nothing to do with Russell other than acknowledging his greatness, especially his ability to enhance the collective performance of his teammates, and his respect for it.

Before beating the Warriors and Sixers seven times in the playoffs and winning those 11 championships in his 13 seasons in the NBA, though, Russell deposed the King of College Hoops—the King of College Hoops of Philadelphia, the King of College National Hoops.

It’s been more than 70 years since then Tom Jolla appeared as a savior For sports that needed to be saved, so now it is difficult to estimate its impact. But it was tangible and meaningful. When Gola led La Salle to the 1952 NIT Championships in Madison Square Garden—at a time when the NIT was more famous than the NCAA tournament—it was the moment college basketball began to purge itself of shaving scandals, largely in New York-based schools. , distorted the sport.

Read more: Remembering Tom Jolla: The Legend of Philadelphia

Jula was the perfect poster boy. He was the son of a policeman. His reputation was pure. He played in a small college in his home city. He was handsome, 6’6″ tall and unlike any player before him, he could and did play any position on the floor.

“He was Magic Johnson,” the late college basketball writer and historian Bob Fitron Sr. once said, “without flair.”

National magazines called him and put his picture on their covers. appeared in The Ed Sullivan Show. He finished his college career with 2,461 points and 2,201 rebounds. The last mark remains the NCAA record. La Salle won the 1954 National Championship and reached the title game again the following year, where the Explorers would face 26-4 a team with only one loss: the San Francisco Dons. A team that no one around the country cared about. Team, in the era when college basketball was just beginning to integrate, with three Sudanese players, one of whom was a petite center who was 6ft 5ft 158lbs when he entered USF, grew four inches and put on more than 50lbs of muscle during the next two years. Team up with Bill Russell.

“The West Coast hasn’t been a major factor in NCAA basketball,” Jolla He said in 1989. “People wouldn’t believe me, but Bill Russell wasn’t a big name on the East Coast. … Russell didn’t know me, and I didn’t know him. In fact, I never saw Bill Russell until we met in the hotel lobby.”

This meeting took place on March 19, 1955, the day of the national title match, at the hotel in Kansas City where La Salle and the USF were staying. Russell and assistant coach Ross Goddess passed Jolla and La Salle coach Ken Loeffler in the hall.

“Well, we’re proud,” Russell said to Giudice. “Here comes Mr. Gula.”

“You’re going to see a lot of it tonight, guys,” Loeffler said.

not exactly. Since Jolla was La Salle’s de facto guard, USAFL coach Phil Walpert wanted to limit the amount of time Russell spends guarding him, fearing that Jolla would drag Russell away from the fairway and basket. So Walpert assigned guard KC Jones to cover Gola, which in turn allowed Russell to let go of his man and come to the aid of Jones. The strategy surprised Loeffler and the explorers and worked great. Billy Packer, who had spent more than 30 years as a college basketball analyst, was 15 years old at the time and was a fan of Gulla. He listened to the match on the radio and couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

“The guy doing the game kept talking about that guy Russell who kept blocking Tom Jolla’s shots,” Packer Tell John Feinstein on Feinstein’s book The Last Dance: Behind the scenes of the quarter-finals. “I’m thinking, ‘That’s impossible.'” Nobody can do that to Gola. Who is this guy Russell? “

He was the man to finish that game with 23 points and 25 rebounds, leading the Dons to an easy 77-63 win. Which, along with Jones, forced Jola to lose nine of his 15 shots from the field and limit him to 16 points. who led San Francisco to 55 consecutive games, an unbeaten season, and another national title in 1955-56. From hoisting college basketball over the edge. That forced the NCAA to change its rules, widening the fairway from six feet to 12 feet and banning attacks on goal.

Gulla helped rebuild the sport. Help Russell redefine it. Gulla represented the whereabouts of the sport. Russell represented where the sport would be. It is a worthy aspect of the legacy of a worthy man.