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    Massive key would open the door to 11 World Championships for the Celtics

    1956 Key to the City of Boston Presented to Bill Russell. If there was ever proof that Hall of Fame coach Red Auerbach was ahead of his time, this was it. Historically, the center position had always been seen almost exclusively as an offensive weapon, but the legendary hardcourt general saw in the University of San Francisco All American an elite rebounder who could dominate the backcourt. Russell, Auerbach believed, was the missing piece in the Celtics' Championship puzzle. In a 1956 draft-day trade with the St. Louis Hawks, Auerbach claimed his prize, and added fellow future Hall of Famers K.C. Jones and Tommy Heinsohn to the roster as well. And thus the greatest dynasty in NBA history was begun.

    Here we present the first sight that greeted rookie Bill Russell and his new bride as he stepped of the plane in Boston on December 16, 1956, an enormous key to the City of Boston presented by his new NBA team. At six feet and ten inches long, the key is equal to the height of the man it welcomes, as is evident in a wonderful photo of Celtics owner Walter A. Brown and new teammate Bill Sharman greeting the couple on the runway. The photo appears on page fifty-four of the publication, "Basketball's Best Major League Players, N.B.A. Pictorial Review 1970-71," a copy of which is included in the lot.

    While the young Russell was undoubtedly touched by the gesture, he was not really prepared to add a seven-foot tall key to his luggage as he made his way from the airport to his new home. Thus the unwieldy relic was offered to the photographer, who lugged it back to his home where it lingered in storage for decades. Six years ago it was sold to a memorabilia dealer by the photographer's grandson. A letter of provenance from that dealer is included.

    Far from just an eye-catching display, this is a piece that symbolizes the dawn of the most dominant age in professional basketball, if not in professional sports. Like the Bloody Sock that shares space within this Platinum Night auction, it's one of the most sacred artifacts from Boston sports history ever made available to the collecting market.

    1956 Key to the City of Boston Presented to Bill Russell.

    *A donation of $100 to the American Red Cross is required to attend the Live auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    February, 2013
    23rd-24th Saturday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 6
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,211

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $14) per lot.

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