Auction Item Details

Lot 60

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Lot Number: 60

Description: Highly important and historic 1969 Bill Russell autographed and inscribed Boston Celtics professional model jersey as worn in Eastern Conference Playoffs and NBA Finals Clinching Game #7 (Bill Russell’s Final Game Jersey)(Mei Gray LOA/Photo Match). 1969 signaled the end of an era. It would be the final season for Bill Russell as an NBA player having accomplished more than any other man who had come up until that point. Most notably, a total of five NBA MVP Awards and a remarkable and unprecedented ten NBA Championships. Russell and the Celtics endued a bruising 1968-69 season and finished with their worst regular season record since 1955-56 at 48-34. Surprisingly, the Celtics were able to defeat the Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference playoffs leading to yet anloher showdown with the L.A. Lakers in the NBA Finals. At the age of 35, Bill Russell was struggling both with years of physical tole on his body and in dealing with the unsettled state of the country after events such as the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Despite these challenges, Bill Russell for one final time displayed the heart of a champion and fittingly squared off with his old friend and arch nemesis, Wilt Chamberlain, in the NBA Finals. The first six games of the Finals witnessed a back and forth affair with both teams taking three games each. In advance of the seventh and deciding game, Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke made the tragic decision to include "proceedings of Lakers victory ceremony" on the game leaflets. Time and time again, Bill Russell had faced the clallenges and silenced the doubters at McClymonds High School, University of San Francisco, and even during countless intances of racism during his career such as the 1961 Lexington Boycott Game. Russell was revolutionary throughout his career in using opponent derived motivations to prevail and the 1969 Finals would be yet another similar triumph. Russell shared the leaflets with his Celtics teammates who battled to an unlikely victory and captured the 1969 NBA Championship, the record setting eleventh of his career. The offered jersey was the final Boston Celtics jersey worn by Bill Russell as a player in that historic seventh game of the 1969 NBA Finals. Classic style executed in green knit with white/green trim having original "Celtics" team name affixed to the front with original number "6" below. Matching original number "6" also found on the back of the shirt. Proper Wilson tag on the front tail notes size (46). Signed "Bill Russell Game Used" on the front in black marker rating 8/9 out of 10. Strong use and wash wear are evident throughout with the jersey retaining fine display qualities. This exact jersey has been photo matched to have been worn by Russell in the Eastern Conference playoff series against Philadelphia and importantly in the NBA Finals clinching seventh game. Several supportive images clearly picture Russell wearing the jersey with unique matching characteristics. As history would dictate, it would also be the final jersey worn by Bill Russell in his iconic Hall of Fame career as an NBA player. Historic appreciation and recognition of scarcity for early NBA Hall of Fame member game jerseys continues to mature at an appropriately strong pace. The related value increases have substantially escalated leading to record setting amounts which are eclipsed at a surprising rate of pace. To properly rank this particular jersey among any within that elite category is uncommonly straight forward. In consideration of condition, primary source provenance, multiple conclusive photo matches, succinct confirmation of use in the 1969 NBA playoffs/Finals, and relation to one of the most iconic figures in the history of American sport the conclusion is clear. The jersey is without question one of, if not the, most important NBA Hall of Fame player game jersey to have been offered at public auction. Generational investment grade collecting opportunity with incredible long term growth potential. Includes LOA from Mei Gray with photo match to ECF playoff and NBA Finals games, several modern prints of Russell wearing the offered jersey, and signed letter of provenance from Bill Russell: EX 1969 Finals Game 7.

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