Auction Item Details

Lot 276a

<<   <  Jump to Lot :    >   >>  


Lot Number: 276a

Description: Important 1956 Bill Russell United States Men’s Basketball Olympic Gold Medal. Bill Russell had just completed his senior season at the University of San Francisco winning his second consecutive NCAA championship. As the 1956 Olympic games loomed it was well publicized that Russell would be a critical element to the United States capturing gold at the game in Melbourne, Australia. Although there was speculation in the media that President Eisenhower had asked Russell to participate (which was not accurate) it was ultimately a very important personal point of pride to which guided his decision. Bill Russell had come a long way from his Mclymond High School days to become one of the most elite young athletes in the world. He was determined to represent his country at the Olympic games before beginning his imminent career as a star in the NBA. As with Russell’s collegiate career, the Olympic experience did not come without its own set of challenges including instances of racism and hypocrisy. While the U.S. team was training they played a tour of fund raising games which included several southern stops. Once again Russell and his African American teammates were faced with discrimination in hotels and restaurants. After several such incidents in Dallas, Texas and in response to the Olympic Committee’s request to not publicly disparage the United States team, Russell remarked on the hypocrisy, "They proceeded to place us in situation after situation where we were segregated or embarrassed." Prior to 1956, the U.S. men’s basketball team had only two African American athletes. Regardless, Bill Russell persevered and the U.S. Olympic team arrived in Melbourne as an overwhelming favorite. The opening ceremonies were before a crowd of 102,000 spectators which drew Russell to "chills". Russell led the U.S. team with an all encompassing domination of the competition. In many cases, the other teams would spend as much time photographing Bill Russell than warming up for the game. One the games would begin, it was noted on many occasions that opposing players would simply watch in awe as Russell grabbed dozens of rebounds and scored at will. With the Cold War in full swing, the game against the USSR was highly anticipated and frankly presented perhaps the only real challenge to the American team. The U.S. team won handily during the seeding round and then again in the gold medal game to the great joy of Russell. Upon defeating the Soviet team for the gold medal, the opposing players surrounded Russell with embraces of congratulations. He later remarked that it was "My proudest moment." of the games. Bill Russell had achieved his goal against all odds and was indeed an Olympic champion. Offered is the original gold medal as presented to Russell as a member of the U.S. Men’s Basketball team. The medal itself is of a sterling silver base metal with a minimum of at least 6 grams of gold content per Olympic standards. General condition is outstanding with only very minor surface wear from handling retaining a pleasing overall patina. Hall mark of R.G. Luke, Melbourne is found at bottom of the front of the medal with "XVIth Olympiad Melbourne 1956" in raised lettering. The reverse of the medal displays a classical scene of an athlete being carried by a crowd. Original bakelite hinged lid casing is included which features Melbourne Olympiad decal on the top. Decal has come edge flaking with few scratches at center. Casing retains its original satin lining marked on interior lid with R.G. Luke Ltd. Medalists, Melbourne stampings. Hinges at the joint of the case have some damage with lid generally supported by interior satin lining. The significance of the Russell gold medal must be considered with several different facets. In addition to its symbolic importance as the pinnacle of athletic achievement this particular medal was presented to one of the most accomplished athletes in the history of American sport. Monumental opportunity of the highest order which certainly qualifies within the ranks of the most important Olympic related items ever offered at public auction. Includes signed letter of provenance from Bill Russell: Medal: EX, Medal Case: VG

Estimated Price Range: (Estimate Upon Request)

Sold for Price: Login or Register