On Sunday, Russell passed away at the age of 88. His wife, Jeannine, was by his side, according to a social media post from his family. The reason of death was not disclosed in the announcement.
Bill Russell reinvented the game of basketball, and after that, he transformed how Americans of different racial backgrounds perceive sports.
Russell, the most successful player in NBA history, endorsed Muhammad Ali, marched alongside Martin Luther King Jr., and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. Russell, the star of the Boston Celtics dynasty that won 11 titles in 13 years, won his final two NBA championships while serving as a player-coach, becoming the first Black coach in a major American sport.
On Sunday, Russell passed away at the age of 88. His wife, Jeannine, was by his side, according to a social media post from his family. Russell’s lengthy sickness prevented him from being healthy enough to deliver the NBA Finals MVP award in June, although the reason of death was not disclosed in the announcement.
Basketball writers selected Hall of Famer Bill Russell, a 12-time All-Star, five-time Most Valuable Player, as the best player in NBA history in 1980. He is still the most decorated player in the history of the sport (he also won two collegiate championships and an Olympic gold medal), and he is a model of selflessness who triumphed via defence and rebounding while others amassed obscene scoring totals.
That frequently meant Wilt Chamberlain, Russell’s sole legitimate adversary during that time period and the subject of heated debates in bars over who was superior. Chamberlain, who passed away in 1999 at the age of 63, had four MVP awards of his own, twice as many points as Russell, and is the only player in league history to have pulled down more rebounds than Russell (23,924 to 21,620).
Russell, though, outperformed the competition 11 to 2 in the only statistic that mattered to him.
Along with Congressman John Lewis, financier Warren Buffett, former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and baseball legend Stan Musial, Obama presented Russell with the Medal of Freedom in 2011.
Obama remarked during the ceremony that “Bill Russell, the man, is someone who stood up for the rights and dignity of all men.” He walked with King and stood by Ali. He declined to participate in the scheduled game after a restaurant refused to serve the Black Celtics. Despite taunts and vandalism, he persisted in his goal of improving his beloved teammates so that so many others could succeed in the future.
Red Auerbach, the coach and general manager of the Boston Celtics, wanted Russell so much that he arranged a deal with the St. Louis Hawks for the second overall choice. He promised a lucrative visit from the Ice Capades, which were also controlled by Celtics owner Walter Brown, to the Rochester Royals, who held the No. 1 choice.
Still, there were grumblings about Russell when he arrived in Boston. People complained that it was a waste of money and a wasted draught decision, he recalled. He’s no good, they claimed. He can only rebound and block shots. Red then declared, “That’s enough.
In 1968 and 1969, Russell led the Celtics to back-to-back championships while defeating Chamberlain in seven-game playoff series each time. After the 1969 NBA Finals, Russell announced his retirement. He later made a comeback for a four-year, largely fruitless run as coach and general manager of the Seattle SuperSonics and a less successful half-season as coach of the Sacramento Kings.