Bill Russell, Nba Legend and Lifetime Campaigner, Has Died at the Age of 88
Bill Russell, Nba Legend and Lifetime Campaigner, Has Died at the Age of 88: The Boston Globe. Bill Russell, an NBA legend who led the Boston Celtics to 11 titles in 13 years and became the first Black head coach of a major U.S. sports franchise, passed away on Sunday.
Russell was known for his activism and marches for civil rights alongside Martin Luther King Jr. He was 88.
Members of Russell’s family announced his passing on social media, writing that he passed away with his wife Jeannine at his side. There was no mention of what caused death in the statement.
Bill’s wife Jeannine and his numerous friends and family members appreciate your continued prayers.
Perhaps you’ll be reminded of the golden moments he provided us, or of his distinctive laugh as he took great pleasure in narrating the true tale of how those moments happened, as the family said in their statement.
To paraphrase Bill, “we hope that each of us can find a new way to act or speak up with the uncompromising, dignified, and always constructive devotion to principle that he exemplified.
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For our beloved #6, that would be the ultimate victory.
In a statement, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called Bill Russell “the greatest champion in all of the team sports.”
“Bill represented something deeper than sports: the values of equality, respect, and inclusiveness that he ingrained into the very fabric of our league.
“At the height of his athletic career, Bill pushed fiercely for civil rights and social justice, leaving a legacy for generations of NBA players to follow in his footsteps,” Silver said.
“Bill persevered in the face of ridicule, threats, and unimaginable adversity, never wavering from his conviction that every person has inherent worth and deserves to be treated with respect.
In 1980, basketball writers selected Bill Russell, a Hall of Famer, five-time MVP, and 12-time All-Star, as the best player in NBA history.
Even today, he is remembered as the sport’s all-time leader in victories, and as a model of selflessness for his ability to win games through the defense and rebounding while relying on his teammates to provide the offense.
When referring to an opponent, Wilt Chamberlain was usually mentioned because he was the only player at the time who could truly be considered competition for Russell.
However, the one statistic that mattered to Russell was the number of championships won: 11 to 2.
The Louisiana native was also influential as a Black athlete in a region (and nation) where race is frequently contentious.
He supported Muhammad Ali when he was criticized for resisting entry into the military draught and was present at the March on Washington in 1963, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.
Along with Congressman John Lewis, millionaire businessman Warren Buffett, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and baseball great Stan Musial, President Obama presented Russell with the Medal of Freedom in 2011.
A man who stood up for the rights and dignity of all men, Obama remarked of Bill Russell at the ceremony.
He walked with King and supported Ali in the ring. After a local eatery’s refusal to serve the Black Celtics, he decided to skip the game.
He was a target of abuse and vandalism, yet he never stopped working to improve the skills of his beloved colleagues. Because of him, many others would go on to do great things.
An announcement… pic.twitter.com/KMJ7pG4R5Z
— TheBillRussell (@RealBillRussell) July 31, 2022
According to Russell, his parents gave him the self-assurance he needed to ignore racist teasing while growing up in the segregated South and later in California.
Russell remarked in 2008, “Years later, people asked me what I had to go through.” If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that I’ve never had a real-life experience.
The knowledge that my parents loved me began the moment I was born. If anyone saw Russell playing in the yard and made a remark, Russell’s mother would advise him to ignore them.
Whatever others say about you, whether it’s good or terrible, they don’t know you, she told him. “Each of them is fighting their own demons.”
Russell says of Jackie Robinson, “Jackie was a hero to us. Behaving like a man was second nature to him. A true role model for a man in the professional sports world, he taught me how to compete like a man.
Once Robinson’s wife Rachel contacted to ask Russell to be a pallbearer at her husband’s funeral in 1972, he knew the sentiment was reciprocal.
After Jackie Robinson got up the phone, Russell reflected, “How do you get to be a hero to Jackie Robinson?” I felt really honored.
Born on February 12, 1934, in Monroe, Louisiana, William Felton Russell is of mixed racial and ethnic heritage.
When he was young, his family relocated to California, and he completed high school in Oakland before attending the University of San Francisco.
In 1955 and 1956, he captained the Dons to NCAA titles, and in 1956 he earned an Olympic gold medal for Australia in Melbourne.
Red Auerbach, head coach, and general manager for the Celtics wanted Russell so much that he traded up to get the second overall pick in the draught from the St. Louis Hawks.
He guaranteed the Rochester Royals, who had the first overall pick, that the Celtics’ owner, Walter Brown, would bring his profitable Ice Capades show to town.
When Russell got to Boston, though, he was met with criticism from locals who said that he wasn’t all that talented.
Russell was still met with criticism upon his arrival in Boston, though. He recalled that many people had commented that the team had made a bad draught pick and wasted their money.
As the saying goes, “They said, ‘He’s no good. He doesn’t do anything besides block shots and grab boards. “That’s enough,” Red proclaimed.
Boston finished the regular season with the best record in the league, despite Russell’s late arrival since he was leading the United States to Olympic gold.
The Celtics defeated Bob Pettit and the St. Louis Hawks in a decisive seventh game of the NBA Finals, resulting in the Celtics’ first of 17 NBA titles.
The following season, Russell won the MVP award for the first time, but the Hawks still defeated the Warriors in a repeat of the NBA Finals and took home the championship.
In 1959, the Celtics repeated as champions, beginning an NBA record streak of eight consecutive titles.
Throughout his 13 seasons in the NBA, 6-foot-10 center Bill Russell never posted a scoring average higher than 18.9 points, and he always pulled down more rebounds than points.
He had a career rebounding average of over 20 per season for ten years. He once had 51 boards in a game, second only to Chamberlain’s 55.
After the 1966 championship, Auerbach stepped down, and Bill Russell took over as player-coach, making history as the first Black head coach in NBA history about a decade before Frank Robinson took over the Cleveland Indians of Major League Baseball.
Even though the Celtics had the best record in the NBA regular season, their championship run was cut short by Wilt Chamberlain and the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference finals.
Despite Chamberlain’s dominance, Russell guided the Celtics to back-to-back titles in 1968 and 1969, each time in a decisive seven-game playoff series.
After the ’69 finals, Russell retired and then spent four years as a coach and general manager of the Seattle SuperSonics and a less successful half-season with the Sacramento Kings.
The Celtics honored Russell by retiring his number 6 jersey that year. At the NBA’s 25th, 35th, and 75th anniversaries, he was named to the league’s all-time squad each time.
By 1996, he had already been recognized as one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history. The NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award was renamed after him in 2009.
On the Boston City Hall Plaza, a statue of Russell was unveiled in 2013. The statue is flanked by blocks of granite engraved with quotations about leadership and character.
Russell was the first African American to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975, but he skipped the ceremony because he felt he did not deserve the honor.
Russell had a little ceremony to get his Hall of Fame ring in 2019. Tweeting, “I believed those before me should have had that honor,” he said. “It’s encouraging to see things improving.”
Bill was a wonderful buddy, and I was really happy for him when he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Silver said. Often, I referred to him as “basketball’s Babe Ruth” because of his timeless impact.
Bill was the best teammate anyone could want to have, and his impact on the NBA will be felt for generations to come.
Our hearts go out to Jeannine, his children, and all of his friends and family who will miss him terribly.