With the death of Celtics Great and civil rights activist Bill Russell, World ‘Lost A Giant’
Bill Russell, the cornerstone of a Boston Celtics dynasty that won 11 NBA titles and a powerful voice for social justice, died Sunday at the age of 88, his family announced.
“Bill Russell, the most prolific winner in American sports history, passed away peacefully today at age 88, with his wife, Jeannine, by his side,” said a statement posted on Russell’s Twitter page.
US President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama – who awarded Russell the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 – were among those who paid tribute to Russell’s contributions on and off the court.
“America’s promise is that we are all created equal and deserve to be treated the same throughout our lives,” Biden said in a statement. “We never fully delivered on that promise, but Bill Russell made sure we never deviated from it.”
Eight titles in a row
Russell’s 11 titles with the Celtics included eight consecutive titles from 1959 to 1966. Today’s NBA Finals MVP award is named after him.
He averaged 15.1 points and 22.5 rebounds per game for his career, building a famous rivalry with Wilt Chamberlain in the 1960s.
Russell became the NBA’s first black coach when he was player-coach for the Celtics in 1966 and the first black player inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975.
His skills revolutionized the NBA game, but Biden noted that throughout his distinguished career, Russell “faced the hostility and hatred of racism ingrained in every part of American life. Yet he never never gave up. Throughout his life, he forced us to face hard truths. . And on this day, there are generations of Americans who reflect on what he meant to them as someone who played for the essential truth that every person has the right to be treated with dignity and respect.”
Russell’s family said “his understanding of wrestling is what lit up his life”.
“Bill spoke out against injustice with a ruthless candor that he said would disrupt the status quo, and with a powerful example that, though never his humble intention, will forever inspire teamwork, selflessness and change. reflexive.”
Obama said the world had “lost a giant”.
“As great as Bill Russell is, his legacy soars much higher – both as a player and as a person,” Obama said in a statement posted on Twitter.
“Perhaps more than anyone, Bill knew what it took to win and what it took to lead. On the court, he was the greatest champion in basketball history. Other than that, he was a civil rights pioneer, marching with Dr. King and alongside Muhammad Ali,” Obama said. “For decades, Bill endured insults and vandalism, but that never stopped him from standing up for what which is fair. I learned so much from the way he played, the way he coached and the way he lived his life.”
NBA commissioner Adam Silver called Russell “the greatest champion in all of team sports”, but added that his accolades “only begin to tell the story of Bill’s immense impact on our league and on society in general”.
“Bill represented something much bigger than sport: the values of equality, respect and inclusion that he ingrained in our league’s DNA,” Silver said.
“Make Things Better”
Those beliefs, more than his on-court prowess, inspired Magic Johnson’s love for Russell, the Lakers legend said Sunday as he joined a wave of tributes.
“He was one of the first frontline athletes to fight for social justice, fairness, equality and civil rights,” Johnson said. “During our friendship, he always reminded me of the need to make things better in the black community.”
Current Celtics stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown remembered the franchise legend, with the club saying in a statement that “Bill Russell’s DNA is woven through every element of the Celtics organization.”
Michael Jordan, who many inherited the title of greatest NBA player from Russell, said Russell “paved the way and set an example for all the black players who came into the league after him, including me”.
In a sentiment shared by former New York Knicks great Patrick Ewing, “the world has lost a legend,” Jordan said.