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Bill Russell, Nba Legend and Celtics Great, Passes Away at Age 88

Sunday, Russell passed away at the age of 88. His family announced the news on social media, stating that Jeannine, his wife, was by his side. There was no mention of the cause of death in the report.

Bill Russell revolutionized how basketball is played, and subsequently altered how sports are perceived in a racially divided nation.

Russell, the NBA’s most prolific champion, marched with Martin Luther King, supported Muhammad Ali, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. Russell, the first Black coach in any major U.S. sport, won his last two NBA championships as a player-coach and was the cornerstone of the Boston Celtics dynasty that won 11 championships in 13 years.

Sunday, Russell passed away at the age of 88. His family announced the news on social media, stating that Jeannine, his wife, was by his side. The statement did not specify the cause of death, although Russell was too unwell in June to receive the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player trophy.

“Bill’s wife, Jeannine, and his many friends and family appreciate your prayers for him. “Perhaps you’ll recall one or two of the golden moments he provided us, or his signature laugh as he enjoyed sharing the real tale behind how those moments transpired,” the family wrote in a statement. “And we hope that every one of us will discover a new way to act or talk with Bill’s unwavering, dignified, and always constructive devotion to principle.

That would be a final and enduring victory for our beloved No. 6.

In a statement, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver referred to Russell as “the greatest champion in the history of team sports.”

“Bill represented something much greater than sports: the principles of equality, respect, and inclusiveness that he instilled in the DNA of our league. “At the height of his athletic career, Bill aggressively pushed for civil rights and social justice, leaving a legacy for generations of NBA players who followed in his footsteps,” added Silver.

Bill rose above the taunts, threats, and unimaginable adversity and remained loyal to his philosophy that everyone ought to be treated with dignity.

Bill Russell

Russell was chosen the greatest player in NBA history in 1980 by basketball writers. He was a Hall of Famer, five-time Most Valuable Player, and 12-time All-Star.

He is the sport’s most decorated champion, having previously won two collegiate championships and an Olympic gold medal, and an exemplar of selflessness, having won with defense and rebounding while others scored in excess of 100 points per game.

Typically, this meant Wilt Chamberlain, the sole worthy adversary of Russell’s era and his chief rival for rebounds, MVP trophies, and barroom debates over who was superior. Chamberlain, who passed away in 1999 at the age of 63, had twice as many points as Russell, his own four MVP medals, and is the only player in league history to have more rebounds than Russell, 23,924 to 21,219.

However, Russell controlled the only statistic that mattered to him: 11 championships to two.

The native of Louisiana also left an indelible impression as a Black athlete in a city and nation where race is frequently a source of tension. He attended the March on Washington in 1963, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, and he supported Muhammad Ali when the boxer was criticized for refusing to be drafted.

The Boston Celtics said in a statement, “To be the greatest champion in your sport, to revolutionize the way the game is played, and to be a cultural leader all at once seems unfathomable, but that is who Bill Russell was.”

In 2011, President Obama gave the Medal of Freedom to Russell, along with Congressman John Lewis, billionaire investor Warren Buffett, then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and baseball legend Stan Musial.

Obama stated at the ceremony, “Bill Russell, the man, is someone who stood up for the rights and dignity of all men.” “He marched with the King and stood alongside Ali. He declined to play in the scheduled game after a restaurant refused to serve the Black Celtics. He faced insults and vandalism but remained focused on making his beloved teammates better athletes, paving the way for the success of countless others.

Bill Russell

Russell stated that during his childhood in the segregated South and later in California, his parents instilled in him the self-assurance that allowed him to ignore racist remarks.

Russell remarked in 2008, “Years later, people asked me what I had to go through.” “Unfortunate or fortunate, I have never experienced anything. From the moment I was born, I was aware that my mother and father loved me. Russell’s mother instructed him to dismiss the opinions of those who saw him playing in the backyard.

He recalls her stating, “Whatever they say about you, good or bad, they do not know you.” They are battling their own demons.

But Jackie Robinson provided Russell with a road map for confronting racism in his sport: “Jackie was our hero. He always behaved like a gentleman. He taught me how to be a man in the world of professional athletics.”

Rachel Robinson, Robinson’s widow, called Russell in 1972 and asked him to be one of the pallbearers at her husband’s burial.

She picked up the phone, and I questioned myself, “How can you become Jackie Robinson’s hero?” Russell stated. “I felt really honored.”

William Felton Russell was born in Monroe, Louisiana on February 12, 1934. His family migrated to the West Coast when he was a child, and he attended high school in Oakland, California, and subsequently the University of San Francisco. In 1955 and 1956, he led the Dons to NCAA titles, and in 1956 he won a gold medal at the Melbourne Olympics.

Red Auerbach, the coach, and general manager of the Celtics desired Russell so much that he negotiated a trade with the St. Louis Hawks for the second overall pick in the draught. He promised the Rochester Royals, who owned the first overall pick, a lucrative appearance by the Ice Capades, which were also owned by Celtics owner Walter Brown.

Nonetheless, Russell arrived in Boston to allegations that he wasn’t really talented. “People felt it was a waste of a draught pick and a waste of money,” he recalled. “They remarked, ‘He’s worthless. He is only capable of blocking shots and regaining possession. Red responded, “That’s enough!”

Russell’s collegiate teammate, K.C. Jones, was also selected by the Celtics in the same round. Even though Russell joined the club late because he was leading the United States to the Olympic gold medal, Boston finished with the best record in the league.

The Celtics defeated Bob Pettit‘s St. Louis Hawks in a seventh-game double-overtime thriller to capture their first of 17 NBA titles. The following season, Russell won his first MVP award, but the Hawks won the championship in a rematch of the finals. In 1959, the Celtics won the championship for the second time, beginning a record-setting streak of eight straight NBA championships.