11-time NBA champion and Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell’s 88. died on

Bill Russell, 11-time NBA champion as a player and coach Boston Celtics And one of the most important figures in NBA history has died at the age of 88, his family announced Sunday. Russell passed away peacefully with his wife Jeanine. His family issued the following statement.

“It is with a very heavy heart that we would like to pass along all of Bill’s friends, fans and followers:

Bill Russell, the most illustrious winner in American sports history, passed away today at the age of 88 with his wife Jeanine. The arrangements for his memorial service will be announced soon.

Bill’s two state championships in high school offered a glimpse of a matchless run of pure team achievement to come: a two-time NCAA champion; captain of the gold medal winning US Olympic team; 11 time NBA champion; and topped for two NBA championships as the first Black head coach of any North American professional sports team.

Along the way, Bill earned a series of individual awards, which is unprecedented because it was not mentioned by him. In 2009, the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award was changed to the two-time Hall of Famer ‘Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award’.

But for all the victories, Bill’s understanding of the struggle illuminated his life. From boycotting the 1961 exhibition game to exposing long-tolerated discrimination, to leading Mississippi’s first unified basketball camp in the combustible wake of the murder of Medgar Evans, decades of activism were finally put on hold for independence in 2010. Recognized by the receipt of the President’s Medal. Bill invoked injustice with an unforgivable candor that he intended would disrupt the status quo, and with a powerful example, though never his humble intention, would always inspire teamwork, selflessness, and thoughtful change.

Bill’s wife, Jeanine, and many of his friends and family thanked Bill for keeping him in their prayers. Maybe you relive a moment or two from one of the golden moments he had, or remember his trademark laugh as he was happy to explain the real story behind those moments unfolding. And we hope that each of us can find a new way to act or speak to Bill’s unshakable, respectful and always constructive commitment to principle. This will be one last and lasting victory for our dear #6.”

Born in Louisiana in 1934, Russell was not initially considered basketball’s top prospect. His first scholarship offer came from the University of San Francisco, a school hardly known for its basketball skills, but one that Russell was able to take to consecutive national championships in 1955 and 1956. In addition to basketball, Russell was a track star in San Francisco. , especially competing in the high jump. He won an Olympic gold medal in basketball as the captain of Team USA in 1956 before turning professional.

Despite his collegiate excellence, Russell was not the first choice in the 1956 NBA Draft. That honor went to Duquesne Wing Sea Green. This made Russell available at No. 2, where the St. Louis Hawks were drafting. However, circumstances worked in Russell’s favor. Boston Celtics star Ed McCauley’s son was undergoing treatment for spinal meningitis in St. Louis, so he asked the team to send him in as a favor. He did so, and landed the No. 2 pick in exchange for Boston Macaulay and fellow Hall-of-Famer Cliff Hagen. The deal didn’t exactly blow in St. Louis’ face. Although they lost to Boston in the 1957 final, the Hawks returned to win it all in a rematch with the Celtics in 1958. But that will be the last championship they will ever win. Russell won 10 more, including eight in a row.

Trade was as important to Russell as it was to the Celtics. “If I had been drafted by St. Louis, I would not be in the NBA,” Russell said in an interview. NBATV, “St. Louis was highly racist.” Sadly, Russell faced racism in his early life in the South and throughout his career in Boston, and he went on to become one of the most socially conscious athletes in American history. He personally participated in Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and was one of many black athletes and leaders who attended the 1967 Cleveland Summit in support of Muhammad Ali. In 1966, Russell became the first black head coach in American sports history when he replaced Red Auerbach in Boston. He retained his role as the team’s starting center, coaching the team on the way to their last two championships.

Russell left the Celtics once his playing career ended. He later worked as a television broadcaster before returning to coaching with the Seattle SuperSonics. He went down four games to a .500 in four seasons at Seattle before leaving. He would coach another season a decade later with the Sacramento Kings, but he otherwise remained largely out of the public eye for the next several decades, living out of his home in Washington.

But he appeared more regularly in public in his final years, often being honored for his remarkable achievements as a sportsman and activist. In 2009, the NBA renamed the Finals MVP award after Russell, and he personally participated in the 2009 Finals to award the trophy to Kobe Bryant. He would do this several times, but it was especially meaningful for Bryant to do so because of the friendship they formed. When Bryant died in a 2020 helicopter crash, Russell wrote an emotional social media post remembering the legend. Bryant may have played for the rival Lakers, but Russell often made himself available for modern players to consult.

Many people were looking for him, because Russell was at the top of the court, the biggest winner of the game. He lost only two playoff series in his entire career. He never lost a winner-take-all game. Not in college. Not in the Olympics. Not in the NBA. He has played all 21 such matches out of which he has won. Russell grew up when it mattered the most, both on and off the court and this is what he will always be remembered for.

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