x
Breaking News
More () »

Colorado basketball greats remember Bill Russell

CU Buff Burdie Haldorson and former Nuggets coach George Karl share about the NBA legend who recently passed away.

DENVER — In 1955, Bill Russell’s winning legacy began by winning the national championship at the University of San Francisco.

He had to beat former Colorado Buffalo Burdie Haldorson in the Final Four before winning it all. The CU great remembers all of the Russell hype.

"There was Bill Russell, the San Francisco team, and three others,” Haldorson laughed. “We weren’t shooting and playing normal, because we were concerned about getting a blocked shot.”

Haldorson would go on to become Russell’s teammate in Melbourne, Australia at the 1956 Olympics. Russell helped deliver the U.S. a gold medal, but his journey wasn’t easy. Something as simple as a hotel stay wasn’t so simple, Haldorson recalls.

“When they went to get on the elevator to go up to the room and wouldn’t let him on the elevator. He had a favorite routine, a dunking routine that he would go through in warmups to entertain the crowd, and he wouldn’t do it.” Haldorson likened that to a silent protest. The Colorado Sports Hall of Famer recognizes just how special it was to play against Russell, “It means a lot to me, I feel good about it. I’m proud to have been on a team with him.”

RELATED: Bill Russell dies at 88: NBA legend set 'powerful example'

Credit: AP
FILE - Boston Celtics' Bill Russell, left, holds a corsage sent to the dressing room as he celebrates with Celtics coach Red Auerbach after defeating the Los Angeles Lakers, 95-93, to win their eighth-straight NBA Championship, in Boston, in this April 29, 1966, photo. The NBA great Bill Russell has died at age 88. His family said on social media that Russell died on Sunday, July 31, 2022. Russell anchored a Boston Celtics dynasty that won 11 titles in 13 years. (AP Photo/File)

Haldorson wasn’t the only Colorado hoop great that Russell impacted. Former Nuggets head coach George Karl saw first-hand how much the players in today’s game laughed and bonded with Russell.

“Well what’s funny is I don’t know how that happened,” said Karl. “I don’t think today’s players are good historians of the game and we’re talking about 50 years ago. But there was a respect for Bill Russell. He’s a historian of the game. And he was also very, very aware of his power, and influence not only on game but on African American relationships.”

Karl was coaching the Supersonics while Russell was living in Seattle. The two never sat down for an in-depth conversation, but Karl didn’t need one to understand who Russell was and what he meant to the league.

“I think he’s the first pillar of greatness in the NBA. The two words in my life I grew up on from my family were respect and responsibility. He’s at the top of the list in both.”

RELATED: Hall of Fame coach George Karl reflects on basketball career

Credit: AP
FILE - NBA great Bill Russell reacts at a news conference as he learns the most valuable player award for the NBA basketball championships has been renamed the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award, Feb. 14, 2009, in Phoenix. Russell has died at age 88. His family said on social media that Russell died on Sunday, July 31, 2022. Russell anchored a Boston Celtics dynasty that won 11 titles in 13 years. (AP Photo/Matt York, file)

SUGGESTED VIDEOS: Sports

Paid Advertisement

Before You Leave, Check This Out