MVP award named after Russell

PHOENIX -- Bill Russell was never an NBA Finals MVP.

Now the award is named after him.

Starting this year, the Finals MVP will receive the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award, commissioner David Stern announced Saturday.

"This is one of my proudest moments in basketball, because I determined early in my career, the only important statistic in basketball is the final score," Russell said.

Russell's wife, Marilyn, recently died of cancer, and he was visibly moved as he accepted the honor.

"This is a bittersweet award," Russell said. "I just lost my special person. But I wanted to thank my teammates because we played a team game quite well. I accept this for my team, and my team included our coach, Red Auerbach, and all my teammates over the years. This is quite flattering."

Russell, a cornerstone of Boston's NBA dynasty in the 1960s, was a five-time NBA MVP and won 11 championships as a player and coach. But he never won the Finals MVP award.

The NBA first named a Finals MVP in 1969, after the series between Russell's Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Celtics won the title but Los Angeles' Jerry West won the MVP trophy -- the first and only time the award has gone to a member of the losing team.

"Who better to name this prestigious award for than one of the greatest players of all time and the ultimate champion," Stern said.

The award, presented at the end of the Finals, is voted by writers and broadcasters covering the series.

"What I'm going to do next week is visit my father's grave, because he was my hero," Russell said. "And I'm going to share that with him."