Boston Celtics great Bill Russell, 11-time NBA champion, dies at 88

Bill Russell, the cornerstone of the Boston Celtics dynasty, who won eight straight titles during his career and 11 titles in total, died on Sunday. The Hall of Famer was 88.

Russell died “peacefully” with his wife Jeanine, Read a statement posted on social media, The arrangements for his memorial service will be announced soon, according to the statement.

The statement did not specify a cause of death, but Russell was not well enough to present the NBA Finals MVP Trophy in June due to a prolonged illness.

“But for all the victors, Bill’s understanding of the struggle brightened his life. From the 1961 exhibition game boycott to highlighting the much-tolerated discrimination, the combustible wake of Medgar, Mississippi’s first unified To lead the basketball camp. [Evers’] Assassination, for decades of activism ultimately recognized by the receipt of his Presidential Medal of Freedom… The bill invoked injustice with an unforgivable candor that his intention would disrupt the status quo, and with a powerful example, though never He did not have humble intentions, will always inspire teamwork, selflessness and thoughtful change,” the statement read.

“Bill’s wife, Jeanine, and many of his friends and family thanked Bill for keeping him in their prayers. Perhaps you’ll relive one or two of the golden moments he had, or explain the real story. I will remember with delight his trademark laugh. Behind those moments unfolding. And we hope that each of us has a chance to act or speak with Bill’s unshakable, respectful and always constructive commitment to principle. The new way can be found. This will be a last, and lasting, victory for our beloved #6.”

Over a span of 15 years, beginning his junior year at the University of San Francisco, Russell had the most remarkable career of any player in the history of the team’s sport. At USF, he was a two-time All-American, winning two straight NCAA championships and leading the team to 55 consecutive wins. And he won a gold medal in the 1956 Olympics.

During his 13 years in Boston, he led the Celtics to the NBA Finals 12 times, won the championship 11 times, the last two titles while also serving as the NBA’s first black coach.

“Bill Russell’s DNA is woven through every element of the Celtics organization, from the relentless pursuit of excellence, to the celebration of the team award on individual pride, to the commitment to social justice and civil rights from the court. Our thoughts to his family.” We mourn his passing and celebrate his vast legacy in basketball, Boston and beyond,” the Celtics said in a statement.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver called Russell “the greatest champion of all team sports” in a statement on Sunday.

“I cherished my friendship with Bill and was thrilled when he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. I would often call him the Babe Ruth of basketball for how he passed time. Bill was the eventual winner and consummate teammate , and his impact on the NBA will be felt forever,” Silver said.

A five-time MVP and 12-time All-Star, Russell was a unique shot-blocker who revolutionized the NBA’s defensive concepts. He finished with 21,620 career rebounds – an average of 22.5 per game – and led the league in rebounding four times. He made 51 rebounds in one game and 49 rebounds in two others and posted 12 straight seasons with 1,000 or more rebounds. Russell also averaged 15.1 points and 4.3 assists per game in his career.

Until Michael Jordan’s exploits in the 1990s, Russell was considered the greatest player in NBA history.

“Bill Russell was a pioneer—as a player, as a champion, as the NBA’s first black head coach, and as an activist. He paved the way for every black player to come into the league, including me. The world has lost a legend. My condolences to his family and may he rest in peace,” Jordan, who is now the Charlotte Hornets president, said in a statement.

Russell was awarded the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by former President Barack Obama in 2011. And in 2017, the NBA honored him with its Lifetime Achievement Award.

William Felton Russell was born on February 12, 1934, in Monroe, Louisiana. His family moved to the Bay Area, where he attended McLemonds High School in Oakland. He was an awkward, unremarkable center on McLemond’s basketball team, but his size earned him a scholarship to San Francisco, where he blossomed.

“I was an innovator,” Russell told The New York Times in 2011. I started blocking shots even though I had never seen shots blocked before. The first time I did that in a game, my coach called a timeout and said, ‘No, a good defensive player always leaves his leg.'”

Russell did it anyway, and he teamed up with guard Casey Jones to lead the Dons to 55 straight victories and national titles in 1955 and 1956. (Jones missed four games of the 1956 tournament because his eligibility was over.) Russell was named to the NCAA Tournament. Most outstanding player in 1955. He then led the American basketball team to victory at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia.

With the 1956 NBA draft, Celtics coach and general manager Red Auerbach was eager to add Russell to his lineup. Auerbach had built a high-scoring offensive machine around the guard. bob koozie and Bill Sharman and undersized center Ed McAulley but thought the Celtics lacked the defense and rebounding they needed to convert to a championship-caliber club. Russell, Auerbach realized, was the missing piece of the puzzle.

After Russell was selected in the draft by the St. Louis Hawks, Orbach drew up a trade for Ed Macauley to land Russell.

Boston’s opening five of Russell, Tommy Heinsohn, Cousy, Sharman and Jim Loskatoff were a high-octane unit. The Celtics posted the best regular-season record in the NBA in 1956–57 and advanced through the playoffs to their first NBA title, defeating the Hawks.

In a rematch in the 1958 Finals, the Celtics and Hawks split the first two games at the Boston Garden. But Russell suffered an ankle injury in Game 3 and was ineffective for the rest of the series. The Hawks eventually won the series in six matches.

Russell and the Celtics then had a strong hold in the NBA Finals, winning 10 titles in 11 years and giving professional basketball a reputation it had never enjoyed before.

In the process, Russell revolutionized the game. He was a 6-foot-9 center whose lightning reflexes bring about shot-blocking and other defensive maneuvers that trigger a rapidly breaking offense in full development.

In 1966, after eight straight titles, Auerbach retired as coach and named Russell as his successor. This was hailed as a sociopolitical advancement, as Russell was the first Black coach of a major league team in any sport, let alone a team coveted. But neither Russell nor Auerbach saw the move that way. He felt this was the best way to continue winning, and as a player-coach, Russell went on to win two more titles over the next three years.

His biggest rival was age. After winning his 11th championship in 1969 at age 35, Russell retired, starting a mini-rebuild. During its 13 seasons, the NBA had grown from eight teams to 14. Russell’s Celtics teams never had to survive more than three playoff rounds to win a title.

“If Bill Russell came back today with the same equipment and the same brainpower, the same man as he landed in the NBA in 1956, he would be the best rebounder in the league,” said Bob Ryan, a former Celtics beat for The Boston Globe. writer, told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2019. “As an athlete, he was well ahead of his time. He would win three, four or five championships, but not 11 in 13 years, obviously.”

In 2009, the NBA Finals MVP trophy was named in Russell’s honor—even though he himself never won it, as it was not awarded for the first time until 1969. However, Russell has traditionally presented the trophy for several years, the last time in 2019. Kawhi Leonard, Russell was not due in 2020 due to the NBA bubble nor in 2021 due to COVID-19 concerns.

As with many titles, Russell’s career was also partly defined with his rivalry. Wilt Chamberlain,

In the 1959–60 season, the 7-foot-1 Chamberlain, who scored a record 37.6 points per game in his rookie year, made his debut with the Philadelphia Warriors. On November 7, 1959, Russell’s Celtics hosted Chamberlain’s Warriors, and pundits called the matchups “The Big Collision” and “Battle of the Titans” between the best offensive and defensive centers. While Chamberlain led Russell 30–22, the Celtics won 115–106, and the game has been called “the new beginning of basketball”.

The matchup between Russell and Chamberlain became one of basketball’s greatest rivalries. One of the Celtics’ titles came in 1964 against Chamberlain’s San Francisco Warriors teams.

However, Chamberlain dismissed Russell during his 142 career head-to-head games (23.7 from 28.7 rebounds per game, 28.7 points per game 14.5) and throughout his career (22.5 from 22.9 rpg, 15.1 from 30.1 ppg). Russell was generally approved as the better overall player, mainly because his teams won 87 (61%) of those games.

In eight playoff series between two players, Russell and the Celtics won seven. Russell has 11 championship rings; Chamberlain only has two.

“I was the villain because I was much bigger and stronger than anyone else out there,” Chamberlain told the Boston Herald in 1995. Laughter a lot Also, he played in the greatest team of all time.

“My team was losing and he was winning, so it would be natural that I would be jealous. Not true. I am more than happy with the way things turned out. He was the best overall, and that only helped me.” Best in out.”

After Russell retired from basketball, securing his place in its history, he moved to wider fields, hosting radio and television talk shows and writing newspaper columns on general topics.

In 1973, Russell acquired the Seattle SuperSonics, a then 6-year-old expansion franchise that had never made the playoffs as coach and general manager. A year earlier, the Sonics had won 26 games and sold 350 season tickets. Under Russell, he won 36, 43, 43 and 40 games, making the playoffs twice. When he resigned, he had a solid base of 5,000 season tickets and a team that reached the NBA Finals over the next two years.

Russell reportedly became frustrated with the players’ reluctance to embrace his team’s concept. Some suggested that the problem was Russell himself; He was said to be aloof, moody and unable to accept anything other than the tradition of the Celtics. Ironically, Lenny Wilkens guided Seattle to a championship two years later, promoting the same team concept that Russell had unsuccessfully tried to establish.

A decade after leaving Seattle, Russell tried another coaching spot jerry reynolds As coach of the Sacramento Kings at the start of the 1987–88 season. The team wobbled a 17–41 record and Russell left midseason.

Between coaching stints, Russell was most visible as a color commentator on basketball games. For a time he was associated with the equally blunt Rick Barry, and the two ruthlessly open commentary on the game. Russell was never comfortable in that setting, however, explaining to the Sacramento Bee, “The most successful television is done in eight-second views, and the things I know about basketball, motivation, and people go much further than that.” deeper.”

He also ventured into acting, performing at the Seattle Children’s Theater show and an episode of “Miami Vice,” and he wrote a provocative autobiography, “Second Wind.”

Russell became the first black player to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975, and in 1980 he was voted the greatest player in NBA history by the Professional Basketball Writers Association of America. He was part of the 75th anniversary squad announced by the NBA in October 2021.

In 2013, Boston honored Russell with a statue at City Hall Plaza.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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