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Dynasty's End

The Boston Celtics of the Bill Russell era were one of the greatest dynasties in sports history. During the thirteen years that Hall of Fame center Russell dominated the court, the Celtics won eleven world championships, including an unprecedented eight straight between 1959 and 1966. In the 1968-69 season, the aging and injury-riddled team finished in fourth place during the regular season, and sportswriters predicted an early defeat in the playoffs. Against all odds, player-coach Russell and his squad rallied to beat the heavily-favored Philadelphia '76ers and New York Knicks, and captured the championship crown in a dramatic upset of Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West and the Los Angeles Lakers in the closing seconds of the final game of the series. The following summer, Russell stunned the sports world by announcing his retirement, ending his and the Celtics' celebrated reign.

In this vivid and lively account, Thomas J. Whalen chronicles Russell's memorable last season and the Celtics' dazzling triumph. Set against the backdrop of the tumultuous 1960s and Boston's own turbulent and bitter struggles with race, he tells the fascinating story of how an improbable championship team overcame poor health, indifferent fans, disruptive personnel changes, and internal morale problems. Whalen recounts how Russell transformed the game of basketball during his remarkable career and revisits the outspoken superstar's conflicted relationship with Boston. He also tells why the Celtics, the first team to break several NBA color lines, failed to attract a loyal following among the city's largely white sports fanatics and press corps.
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About the Author

THOMAS J. WHALEN is Assistant Professor of Social Science at Boston University. He is the author of Kennedy versus Lodge: The 1952 Massachusetts Senate Race, also published by Northeastern University Press, and has written for numerous publications, including the Boston Globe. He is a resident of Boston's North Shore. RICHARD A. JOHNSON, editor of the Sportstown Series, is Curator of the Sports Museum of New England and the author of A Century of Boston Sports, published by Northeastern University Press.


Well-written sports books are a rarity, and Whalen's is one of them. Neither a gushing fan's account nor a professorial social history, it tells the story of the great Boston Celtics team of the late 1950s and early 1960s coached by Red Auerbach and starring the team's nearly peerless center, Bill Russell. Not only did his Celtics win 11 championships in 13 seasons, but they did so in a rocky time in American history. While other cities were burning up in race riots, the predominantly black Celtics were winning championships for predominantly white Boston fans. Whalen cleverly uses Russell as a lens through which to view the rise and fall of the great dynasty while concentrating on Russell's final year, when as the team's player-coach he led a fourth-place finishing team into the playoffs and improbably captured one last championship in the final seconds against the Lakers. Whalen does a good job of bringing in other material, such as Russell's friendly rivalry with Wilt Chamberlain and the interplay of the other teams in the league with Boston. He is in-depth about the technical aspects of the sport without being dry. Well written and researched, this is a book with something for fans and scholars alike. Recommended for all sports collections.-James Miller, Springfield Coll. Lib., MA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

"A thoughtful and thorough account of the last, great days of the Celtics team led by Bill Russell." (Bill Littlefield, Boston Globe) "A complete portrait of one of the great success stories in team sports... compelling portraits of both the players and the era that brim with colorful detail." - Sports Illustrated "Thomas J. Whalen has written a grand and comprehensive celebration about the end of a glorious time and about the men who made up such a glorious team." - Frank Deford "Tom Whalen's book is a sweet and overdue corrective to anyone who thinks basketball began with Michael Jordan, who thinks basketball in Boston began with Larry Bird, and who doubts that there were giants ever in short pants. Gaze in awe - Bill Russell played here once." - Charles P. Pierce, author of Hard to Forget: An Alzheimer's Story and Sports Guy "[Whalen] scores big in his examination of the pride, determination, and mutual respect that propelled these nearly middle-age men to one more title." - Booklist"

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