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bill russellOne of the greatest basketball players of all time, who led the charge on and off the court, has died, his family announced on Sunday. He was 88 years old.
Russell’s family said in a statement that he died “peacefully” along with his wife. It is not clear how Russell died.
The statement began, “It is with a very heavy heart that we want to go with all of Bill’s friends, fans and followers.”
“Bill Russell, the most prolific winner in American sports history, passed away peacefully with his wife, Jenny, today at the age of 88. 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: two-time NCAA champion; gold-medal winning captain 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, the Bills earned a string of individual awards that are unprecedented because it went unnoticed by them. In 2009, the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award was named after a two-time Hall of Famer “Bills” Russell NBA Finals “Most Valuable Player Award.”
His family said that while his victory on the court was one thing, his achievements and his fight in the civil rights movement should also be remembered.
“But for all to win, Bill’s understanding of the struggle illuminated his life,” the statement read. “From boycotting the 1961 exhibition game to exposing long-tolerated discrimination, to leading Mississippi’s first integrated basketball camp in the combustible wake of Medgar [Evers’] Assassination, for decades of activism recognized by the receipt of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010, the bill invokes injustice with an unforgivable candor, intended to disrupt the status quo, and with a powerful example, though his Humble intention would never. Always inspire teamwork, selflessness and thoughtful change.
“Bill’s wife, Jenny, and many of his friends and family thanked Bill for keeping him in their prayers. Maybe you will [relive] Remember the one or two golden moments he gave us, or 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 with Bill’s unshakable, respectful, and always constructive commitment to his principle. This will be one last and lasting victory for our beloved #6.”
NBA commissioner Adam Silver issued a statement after the news of Russell’s death surfaced.
“Bill Russell was the team’s greatest champion in all sports. The countless accolades he earned for his illustrious career with the Boston Celtics—including a record 11 championships and five MVP awards—only begin to tell the story of Bill’s immense influence. League and wider society,” Silver Aid.
“Bill stood for something much bigger than sport: the values of equality, respect and inclusion he stamped into the DNA of our league. At the height of his athletic career, Bill vigorously advocated for civil rights and social justice, a The legacy he passed on to generations of NBA players who followed in his footsteps. Through taunts, threats and unimaginable adversity, Bill rose above all and lived up to his belief that everyone deserves to be treated with respect .
Silver said that Russell “was the eventual winner and consummate teammate, and was an influence [on] The NBA will be felt forever.”
Russell was the St. Louis Hawks’ No. 2 overall pick in the 1956 draft. He was picked behind Sea Green, who was picked by the Rochester Royals, and in front of Jim Paxson Sr., who was picked by the Minneapolis Lakers. Russell would go on to score more points than the two players combined.
Feather San FranciscoRussell helped the Dons win two consecutive NCAA titles in 1955 and 1956. He led Team USA to a gold medal at the 1956 Olympics.
Russell was traded to the Hawks on draft day for Cliff Hagen and Ed McCauley. He continued his dominance in the pros, leading Boston to 11 championships, including eight straight runs. He led the NBA in rebounds five times and is one of only two players to record at least 50 rebounds in a game.
Russell broke the coaching color barrier when he became the first black NBA head coach in history in 1966. He coached Boston to two NBA championships. He would later coach the Seattle SuperSonics and the Sacramento Kings.
Off the court, Russell was a key leader in the fight for equality as he fought racist abuse, and was public about what he had seen and heard while playing.
He and other Black teammates boycotted an exhibition game in Kentucky in 1961 after he was refused service at a restaurant in Kentucky. Russell also supported the refusal to draft Muhammad Ali during the Vietnam War.
Russell was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame twice – once as a player and another time as a coach. His No. 6 has been retired by the Celtics, and he is named for the NBA Finals MVP award.
During his illustrious career, Russell was a 12-time All-Star, 11-time NBA Champion, five-time MVP, and an 11-time All-NBA selection.