Bill Russell - Career stats, game logs, biographical info, awards, and achievements for the NBA and NCAA. Check all the awards won and nominated for by Bill Russell - Presidential Medal of Freedom (2011) , NBA All-Defensive Team (1969) , Sportsman of the Year (1968) and more awards. Bill Russell, byname of William Felton Russell, (born February 12, 1934, Monroe, Louisiana, U.S.), American basketball player who was the first outstanding defensive centre in the history of the National Basketball Association (NBA) and one of the sport’s greatest icons. William Felton William Felton Russell (born February 12, 1934) is an American former professional basketball player who played center for the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association (NBA) from 1956 to 1969. The Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award (formerly known as the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award) is an annual National Basketball Association (NBA) award given since the 1969 NBA Finals.The award is decided by a panel of eleven media members, who cast votes after the conclusion of the Finals.The person with the highest number of votes wins the award. Boston's starting five of Russell, Heinsohn, Cousy, Sharman, and Jim Loscutoff was a high-octane unit. Awards and accolades were synonymous with Bill Russell's NBA playing days. Bill Russell (right) won 11 NBA championships and five MVP awards as a player, but he accomplished much more off the court. A five-time NBA Most Valuable Player and a twelve-time All-Star, he was the centerpiece of the Celtics dynasty that won eleven NBA championships during his 13-year career.