The recently departed Bill Russell of NBA fame was born on February 12, 1934, making him eleven days younger than Bob Shane. Russell had graduated from the University of San Francisco before the Kingston Trio got started in the area, but as a college educated young adult he was part of the prime audience that the early Trio was trying to reach.
Apparently they succeeded with Bill. The late Paul Westphal - and I was surprised to learn that he died a year and a half ago - had also like Russell played for the Boston Celtics for a time and coached as well. Someone has maintained Westphal's FaceBook page for the year and a half since his death, and a couple of days ago in the wake of Russell's passing, this paragraph popped up on Westphal's Facebook:
"BILL RUSSELL ~ BOSTON CELTICS #6 ~ Mr. Russell died today at the age of 88. He was one of Paul’s basketball heroes. A hero he had the honor of spending some time with along his own NBA journey. When Paul was coaching in Seattle, the two men were in touch. For Paul to pick his genius basketball brain, and also for some R&R on the golf course. It was in the late 1990’s when they first played golf together. Bill needed a ride, so when Paul picked him up and they got to talking, he asked him what his favorite music was. His answer surprised Paul at the same time it put a huge smile on his face. Bill said he listens to the Kingston Trio on cassette…both at home and in his car. Two basketball guys from two different eras and backgrounds both loved the Kingston Trio. That was fun."
Without pushing the point too hard, there is at least one significant area of comparison between the careers of Russell and the KT.
While Russell was not the first big man to excel at a sport that Dr. Naismith had envisioned being played by shorter, more agile athletes - that first "big" would be George Mikan of DePaul University and the Minneapolis Lakers, like Russell 6'10" tall - Russell's play redefined the position of center and the effect that great defense and rebounding could have on the outcome of a game and a season.
Likewise, while it was the Carter Family first and The Weavers second who demonstrated that acoustic and often traditionally-based music could sell as well as other popular forms, the early KT blew the doors off of earlier record sales in the genre and demonstrated that there was indeed a mass audience for this kind of music, at least when it was polished, harmonized, and presented with a professionalism that the often homegrown and amateur performers of earlier decades sometimes lacked.
For some reason, I found this Bill Russell/KT factoid as fully satisfying as it was surprising.