Miami Vice Wiki
Bill Russell


Miami Vice Character
February 12, 1934, Monroe, Louisiana
Active (Basketball)
Active (Actor)
Rose Swisher (1956-1973, divorced), 3 children
Dorothy Anstett (1977-1980, divorced)
Marilyn Nault (1996-2009, her death)

William Felton Russell (born February 12, 1934) is an American basketball player and coach, who appeared in the show Miami Vice as Judge Roger Ferguson, who rose from the ghettos to a judgeship after a successful basketball career, father to basketball star Matt Ferguson (played by Bernard King), but his gambling addiction and his change to a dirty judge caused him pain and he killed his bookie Pagone (played by Michael Richards) before killing himself in the episode "The Fix".

Early Life/Basketball Career

Russell was born in Monroe, Louisiana. He (along with his family) struggled with racism in the Jim Crow South and those struggles would help shape his adult life. His family moved to Oakland, California during World War II but fell into poverty and lived in numerous projects. His mother died at age 12, and the family struggled with her loss, but a meeting with Minneapolis Lakers star George Mikan inspired Russell to try basketball. After early struggles, his high school coach taught him the fundamentals, and then Russell's raw talents took over, but was ignored by major colleges before his local college, the University of San Francisco (USF) gave him a scholarship, despite his still rusty play. Russell saw this as a chance to escape poverty and racism, and never looked back. Russell's star rose in college, winning 55 consecutive games and two consecutive NCAA Tournament championships in 1955 and 1956. His defense and shot-blocking caught the attention of UCLA coach John Wooden, calling Russell "the greatest defensive man I've ever seen".

After turning down an offer to play with the Harlem Globetrotters, Russell was drafted by the St. Louis Hawks originally, but was traded to the Boston Celtics for two players, and coach Red Auerbach felt Russell's superior defensive skills would compliment his talented offense of Tom Heinsohn, and K.C. Jones, Russell's USF teammate. Before joining the Celtics, Russell would win a gold medal for the U.S. Olympic Team in 1956. His rookie season saw Russell average nearly 20 rebounds a game. In the playoffs, Russell had 31 rebounds in his first playoff game and led the Celtics to their first NBA championship. After losing the 1958 NBA title to the Hawks (due to a Russell injury), the Celtics won the 1959 title by sweeping the Lakers. In 1959, Wilt Chamberlain debuted with the Philadelphia Warriors, and the two centers would dominate NBA play, but the Celtics won the title that year. In 1961, due to Chamberlain's and Russell's inside dominance, the NBA widened the free throw lane (the "key") from 12 feet (which it is currently in college and high school) to 16 feet (where it remains today). That same year, the Celtics won the third of six consecutive NBA championships, a record for league domination in any sport that still stands today. In 1966 Russell would replace Auerbach as player-coach and the Celtics would win another title in 1968, then his final title as both a player (11 titles in all) and coach (two titles) in 1969 and Russell retired as both after that season, but in his departure he angrily told the Celtics and their fans "he owed them nothing" and cut all ties to his team, angering Auerbach and the fans.

His number 6 was retired by the Celtics in 1972, and he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame three years later, but he was not present at either event. He coached again, with the Seattle SuperSonics from 1973–77 and the Sacramento Kings in 1987, but neither team made the NBA Finals and his Kings team went 17-41 before Russell was fired. He worked as a color commentator but was uncomfortable with broadcasting, but Russell's retirement investments went sour and he owed back taxes to the IRS. But he wrote books and stayed close to the game he loved, eventually mending the fences with Boston, attending a "re-retirement ceremony" of his number 6 in 1999, attended by his rival Chamberlain (six months before his death), Celtic great Larry Bird, and Kareem Adbul-Jabbar. The fans also forgave, and gave Russell such an outpouring of adoration it moved the Hall of Famer to tears. Russell was part of the inaugural class of the College Basketball Hall of Fame, and in 2009 the NBA Finals MVP trophy was named for him (which he presented to that year's winner, Kobe Bryant of the Celtics' long time rival, the Lakers). The legacy Russell brought to basketball was his defensive prowess, that raised the bar of defense among centers in the NBA in the following decades. His 11 NBA titles has not been touched (most recently Michael Jordan won 6 with the Chicago Bulls) by any

Russell being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, 2011

player.  In 2013, he was named to the NCAA's "All-Time March Madness" team, one of 15 players so honored on the 75th anniversary of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament.

Acting career

Russell mostly appeared as himself in numerous TV and sports shows, but acted as other characters in the shows It Takes A Thief, Love, American Style, and the movie On The Right Track. His Vice appearance was his last as an actor.

Russell as Judge Ferguson in "The Fix"

Personal life

Russell married his college sweetheart Rose Swisher in 1956 until their divorce in 1973, they had three children: Karen, William F. Jr, and Jacob. He then married Dorothy Anstett, a former Miss USA (1968) in 1977, they divorced in 1980, after which Russell married Marilyn Nault, from 1996 until her death in 2009. In 2011 President Barack Obama awarded Russell the Presidential Medal of Freedom.