Still more from Bill Russell's book Second Wind Memoirs of an Opinionated man on the humor and wild streak that made those early Celtics teams special. There were some nights when I simply didn't feel like playing. Not many, but a few. A basketball season is an endless line of boneweary nights, and I would be so exhausted after the playoffs that it would take me a month or so just to recover the energy to function normally. I'll admit that I gave in to the fatigue during some games, and be out there just going through the motions. That's when I could count on it: Whack! A loud noise, and pain would shoot upward from my kidneys. I'd glower at the other center. A few plays later, I'd be beating that other center to death with the basketball, just like my old high school coach had taught me. I'd forget that I was tired. But once in a while, if I were lucky, I'd turn around after a whack quickly enough to see that it was not the other center who was hitting me, but sneaky little KC Jones, my own teammate! I'd let loose a string of obscenities at him, and KC would stare back at me with an innocent smile. "Well, you weren't doing nothing out here," he'd say, "so I had to get your attention." I'd give him another string of obscenities, and then we'd laugh. We also used laughter as a way of communicating about problems that other teams might sulk about. Once I got a rebound under our basket, and seeing that the other team's defense had broken down somehow so that both Sam and KC were standing wide open at the foul line, I deliberately passed the ball to Sam. He was the better shooter; it was that simple. As we ran back up the court, KC gave me his impish grin and said, "Didn't think I could make it, eh, Russ?" He laughed about it. He knew I'd done what was best for the team; at the same time, it stung him a little to be reminded that he wasn't the team's best shooter. But KC would laugh that sting away. It was his way of restoring his own confidence. But laughter was also simply pure recreation, and we had some purely witty contributors, like Satch Sanders. From the day he first arrived in his big knew pads (which Red took away from him), horn rimmed glasses held on with a rubber band, and other affectations, Satch interfered with Red's serious intentions. Red would get angry because Satch could make people laugh without saying a word, by just standing there, and nobody could explain why. Satch had a way all his own. Once he got so nervous in a White House receiving line that all he could say as he shook President Kennedy's hand was, "Take it easy, baby." One day he decided that it was time to get married, but when he showed up to pop the question to his sweetheart, she was not at home. Finally Satch got tired of waiting and went over to another girl friend's house and married her instead. (Of course it didn't last.) Then there was Gene Conley, a marvelous athlete who backed me up at center and also pitched for the Boston Red Sox. Conley had a hostile streak as deep as a well, ans used to throw at Mickey Mantle's crippled legs whenever he pitched against the Yankees. Apparently Mantle had once told reporters that Conley didn't have much of a fastball, and Gene never forgot it. "A man with legs like that don't have no business bad mouthing pitchers," Gene would say, "so I throw at those little stems of his every game. I still hit him every now and then." Conley was the only Celtic who could play with a hangover and without sleep, and he loved to spin yarns about it. He could make everybody laugh, but he had one drawback, he couldn't prevent himself from hurting people physically. Often he'd hurt Celtics shooting warm-ups; he'd be out there in another world and run right over somebody. After a few such injuries, Conley found himself shooting all by himself in a cleared zone that everybody avoided. Finally he managed to hurt himself. He was standing there shooting a simple set shot, when he somehow twisted his back and was laid out on the floor with an injury. "A man with a back like that don't have no business shooting set shots," we told him, as he was carried off the court. Frank Ramsey was the pluckiest character on the team. He was always talking about money and made shrewd investments. He played championship basketball, but he was put together in an odd way: he was so pigeon toed that you thought his feet would trip over each other, and when he ran his ass stuck up in the air like the back end of a bootlegger's car. People laughed when they saw him run for the first time. What the bumblebee is to flying, Ramsey was to running; it looked impossible. But he got things done on pure Kentucky grit. I never played with anyone who relished being in the middle of a scrap. He was only six foot three, but he'd crash right in there, get offensive rebounds, dribble past everybody and lay the ball in, and nobody could ever figure out how. It was because he could jump high, run fast and play hard, but this never seemed to dawn on other players because he didn't look as though he could move. Frank talked flawlessly all season long, but when the playoffs rolled around, he stuttered. You could count on it at the end of the season, and Red used to ride him about it unmercifully. Once Frank was sitting in the locker room before a playoff game, staring at a swollen, jammed finger. We were always getting our fingers jammed, but that didn't stop us from playing, because the training put on a small plaster cast to guard against further hyperextension. When the trainer got to Ramsey, Frank held up his wounded finger and said, "Do you think you could fuh-fuh-fuh-fix my fuh-fuh-fuh-fanger?" Red overheard. "Having trouble with your f's again, eh Frank?" he taunted, and went into his merry, obnoxious laugh. "F**k you, Red," said Frank. "How's that?" The whole team cracked up, and we laughed our way all through the playoffs. Ramsey's exquisite sense of timing never failed him in a joling session, and neither did his determination in a game. The grimmer the situation, the more cocky he'd get. "Are you worried, Rams?" we's ask in a tight situation. "Naw," he'd drawl, and we'd all laugh and feel better.