Collector may have found a missing link to Bristol's Bill Russell connection

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 3/23/23

Once upon a time, a Bristol shoe factory that made a sneaker for Celtics legend Bill Russell offered a free signed photo of the player. A collector might have found one of those photos, and is looking for someone to help confirm it.

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Collector may have found a missing link to Bristol's Bill Russell connection


Recently, the Bristol Phoenix received an inquiry from a Bill Russell fan and memorabilia collector — and he hopes someone in town might be able to help him confirm the origins of a piece he recently added to his collection.

“I’m a fan and admirer of Bill Russell,” he wrote. “I recently acquired an old, mysterious photograph of his. While trying to figure out its origins, I came across a cutout of the actual Bristol advertisement.”

“I believe what I have here is the Bristol ‘free autographed photo’ of Mr. Russell,” he said, referencing the advertisement for the Bill Russell basketball shoe that offered a free autographed photo to all who wrote to the Bristol Manufacturing Corporation.

Though the letter writer notes that the autograph is a facsimile, and the photo itself is in rough shape, he thinks it's nonetheless a rare piece of Bill Russell memorabilia. He sent it to a sports memorabilia authentication company, but they wouldn't authenticate it as there are no others to compare it to, and no proof that this is in fact, the Bristol photograph.

He is hoping that there are readers who might remember the promotion, or even have a copy of the photograph themselves. “This is a long shot, but I just thought I'd ask if you knew anything about the photo or the giveaway,” he wrote. “I thought I solved the mystery, but I'm still looking for some kind of confirmation.”

If anyone has information and would like to be put in contact with the letter writer, please email

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