Friday, May 29, 2009

Red and Me: My Coach, My Lifelong Friend by Bill Russell

Bill Russell certainly intended to write a book about his friendship with Red Auerbach when he and Alan Steinberg collaborated on Red and Me: My Coach, My Lifelong Friend. But, before the reader can get to the messages about friendship, you have to get past Bill Russell's ego.

Basketball is the framework for the lessons of friendship between two men who may appear to be unlikely friends. Auerbach was a short, feisty Jew who grew up in Brooklyn. Russell grew up in the rural Deep South, and then in segregated Los Angeles. But, their attitude of teamwork, and commitment to always winning as a team brought them together. They shared the Boston Celtics pride, "Commitment, loyalty, and devotion came with the uniform." Their respect for each other's work ethic grew into an unspoken friendship that lasted years after they both retired from the Celtics.

Russell relates stories of shared friendship. However, he also tells so many stories of himself that it became too much about Bill Russell. No one can deny that Russell was one of the best professional basketball players of all time. But, it seems too much like bragging as he says, I was going to be the "dominant defensive force in the NBA." And, he continues to tell how important he was to the team, and that Auerbach knew he needed time off since he carried the team.

I had mixed feelings when I finished Red and Me. I respect a friendship that was based on understanding, trust and respect. But, I just felt as if the book, at times, became all about Bill Russell. I understand that "basketball set the stage for our relationship to evolve." I just had mixed feelings as to Russell's manner of telling this story. If the reader doesn't like Bill Russell, don't read the book.

Red and Me: My Coach, My Lifelong Friend by Bill Russell. HarperCollins Publishers, ©2009. ISBN 9780061766145 (hardcover), 208p.

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