Today is Day 6 of the Omer. Yesod sheb’hesed. Within love, there is righteousness.
There could be no other choice for day 6 of the Omer than the great Bill Russell. Russell is the greatest winner in the history of the NBA and arguably the greatest player in NBA history. In 13 seasons, he won 11 NBA Championships. All Russell cared about was winning and doing whatever it took for his team to win. He was league MVP 5x in his career and AVERAGED 22.5 rebounds/game over his entire career. The league didn’t begin recording blocks until after he retired, which is a shame, because he would have dominated that category too.
Yesod is most often translated as foundation and Russell was certainly the foundation of the Boston Celtics. He led the storied franchise to their first NBA championship in 1957 and then to 10 more as the Celtics dominated the NBA in the 1960s and he dominated his rivalry with Wilt Chamberlain. He was their cornerstone and in 1966, he became the first black head coach in any American professional sport. As a player/coach, he led them to two championships in three seasons and further established the Celtics as the most storied franchise in the NBA.
Today’s sefirah, yesod, is also associated with the image of the tzadik or righteous person, through the Biblical figure of Joseph, who possessed tremendous will power to resist temptation and evil forces. During the 1950s and 60s, Russell stood up against racism and discrimination. He was a brave, thoughtful, and eloquent leader who used his platform to fight for justice and equality. His clarity of vision and willingness to fight for what is right has continued through his life as he has become a mentor to many on and off the court.
Bill Russell is a tzadik and we are very lucky that continues to share his wisdom and leadership with us today.