By: Nina Samone
Iconic NBA star Bill Russell died peacefully with his wife, Jeannine at his side after battling a long illness.
Bill Russell has left his mark on the NBA world, and is arguably the backbone of a Boston Celtics dynasty that won eight straight titles as well as an inspirational leader and pioneer in the civil rights movement.
During his 13-year NBA career at Boston, he led the Celtics to the NBA Finals 12 times, winning 11 serving as both a player and the NBA’s first Black coach during his final two.
In a statement on Sunday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver called Russell, “the greatest champion in all of team sports.”
Until Michael Jordan’s explosion in the 90s, Russell was largely considered by many as the greatest player in NBA history.
He was a five-time MVP, 12-time All-Star, revolutionary shot-blocker, defender and rebounding machine. He ended with 21,620 career rebounds – an average of 22.5 per game. He led the league in rebounds four times and had 12 straight seasons with 1,000 or more rebounds.
According to Michael Jordan, current chairman of the Charlotte Hornets, Russel was a pioneer as a player, champion and as the first Black head coach in the NBA.
“He paved the way and set an example for every Black player who came into the league after him, including me. The world has lost a legend. My condolences to his family and may he rest in peace,” Jordan said.
Russell was awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor in 2011 by Barack Obama – the Medal of Freedom award. The NBA also awarded him with its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017.
Barack Obama said in a statement on Sunday, “As tall as Bill Russell stood, his legacy rises far higher – both as a player and as a person. Perhaps more than anyone else, Bill knew what it took to win and what it took to lead.”
Loved for his foreword thinking, rivalry with Wilt Chamberlain and success on and off the court among many other feats, Russell will be greatly missed.
Goodwill, Vincent. August 1, 2022. Yahoo! Sports. “Why Bill Russell is perhaps the most important player in NBA history.” <https://sports.yahoo.com/why-bill-russell-is-perhaps-the-most-important-player-in-nba-history-140233515.html>
August 2022. ESPN. “Boston Celtics great Bill Russell, 11-time NBA championship, dies at 88.” <https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/34323568/boston-celtics-great-bill-russell-11-nba-champion-dies-88>