Late in 1965, a brand-new member of the Boston Celtics found himself alone and without much interaction with anybody beyond teammates at games and practices.

It was about to put a damper on the holidays for Don Nelson.

Until one of his new teammates decided to befriend him.

“Bill Russell came up to me one day and said, ‘What are your plans for Christmas?’ “ Nelson remembered on Monday. “My family hadn’t made it to Boston, so I told him I had no plans.

“So he invited me over to his house. His kids were there and we had a great time. I probably stayed eight hours and he really made me feel at home. It was eight beautiful hours, in my eye.

“That was really cool. I was new there and didn’t know anybody. I would have spent Christmas in the hotel room. What he did meant a lot to me.”

And it was the beginning of a long, long friendship.

Nelson and the rest of the basketball world mourned the loss of Russell, who died Sunday at 88.

Nelson, as is the custom in Hawaii, where he lives full time now, lit a candle for Russell on Sunday. And did so again Monday. It was a loss felt all over the world, partly because of Russell’s basketball life, but also because of the lasting imprint he left on the world as a pioneer who paved the way for equality in sports and all walks of life.

It brought back a slew of memories for Nelson, who joined Russell and the Celtics just before Halloween in 1965. He remembers jogging on the Boston streets to stay in shape. And finding ways to practice when he didn’t have a vehicle.

One of those who played chauffeur before Uber was even an idea was Russell.

“I remember he offered to pick me up at the hotel and give me a ride to practice,” Nelson said. “He pulls up and he’s driving a Lamborghini.

“He was 6-10 and I was 6-6. And we’re practically laying down in this thing and I was scared to death. I went on a couple rides with him and that was enough. It was breathtaking, but scared the hell out of me.

“And Bill would just lean back with that chuckle he always had.”

It’s worth noting that Lamborghini’s had just been invented in 1963 and were extremely hard to come by. It cost a whopping $5,480 in 1965. Today, the cost is $693,000.

Nelson coached the Mavericks from 1997-2005 and planted the roots of Dirk Nowitzki’s career that would grow into the franchise’s only championship in 2011.

He now is living the good life at age 82 in Hawaii. He has acquired and managed property on Maui for decades and now has a daily regimen of golf in the morning, relaxing in the afternoon and hanging with card-playing buddies when the opportunity arises.

It’s a life well-earned.

It’s also one that was made better by the time he spent with Russell, who won 11 championships in 13 NBA seasons. Nelson was along for the ride for three of those titles, including the memorable 1969 championship win over the Los Angeles Lakers and Jerry West in seven games. In that decisive seventh game, Nelson hit a critical shot in the final two minutes, one that bounced high off the back rim and cradled through the net to fuel the Celtics’ 108-106 win.

Nellie would win five titles overall with the Celtics, two with the Dave Cowens-John Havlicek-Paul Silas iteration.

But in the aftermath of Russell’s passing, Nelson remembers the man and the legend. Russell was a civil-rights icon. He marched with Dr. Martin Luther King and stood tall alongside Muhammad Ali.

Nelson just knew him as a good man.

“I love Bill Russell,” he said. “He was my teammate. He was my coach. I was blessed by his presence in basketball, but just being around him. He was a superstar, and he was a pretty special person.”

When it came to leading and winning, Russell had no equals.

“There probably will never be another athlete win like Bill did,” Nelson said. “The beauty of Bill Russel is he is the only one who did it the way he did it. He didn’t even care about scoring a bunch of points. He dominated on the defensive end.

“The attitude came from (coach Red) Auerbach. You’d win the title and come back to camp for the next season and he’d say: what have you done for me lately? He never took his foot off the gas.”

And that played perfectly with Russell’s relentless drive.

So what does Nelson remember most about those Celtic teams, besides all the winning?

“It was a given that if we played well, we were going to win,” he said. Bill Russell was special. He dominated the game in a way that nobody else could.”

Nelson’s last couple of seasons with Russell were when the legendary No. 6 also was the Celtics’ coach. He was the first African-American head coach in any of the professional leagues.

Later in life, the West Coast Conference, which Russell’s alma mater the University of San Francisco was a charter member since 1952, implemented the Bill Russell Rule, which required that member schools interview people of a traditionally underrepresented community in the pool of final candidates for every athletic director, coach or senior administrator position in the athletic department.

Nelson remembered Russell the coach a little differently than Russell the player. He had a lot to learn. But he learned fast.

So fast that Russell is in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame twice – inducted as a player in 1975 and a coach in 2021.

“He was great to play for,” Nelson said. “I remember he’d secretly untie some rookie’s shoelaces in the locker room just so he could fine the kid $10. He made it fun.”

Winning has a way of doing that.

Twitter: @ESefko

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