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11-time NBA champion Bill Russell dies at 88

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Bill Russell, an 11-time NBA champion as a Boston Celtics player and coach and one of the most important figures in NBA history, has died at the age of 88, his family announced Sunday. died peacefully with his wife Janine by his side. His family released the following statement:

“It is with a very heavy heart that I would like to convey to all of Bill’s friends, fans and followers.

Bill Russell, the most successful man in American sports history, died peacefully today at the age of 88, along with his wife Janine. Arrangements for his memorial service will be announced shortly.

Bill’s two state championships in high school provided a glimpse into an unrivaled array of pure team achievements. His two-time NCAA champion. Captain of his team at the US Olympics, who won a gold medal. 11-time NBA champion. As the first black head coach of a North American professional sports team, he held the helm of two of his NBA championships.

Along the way, Bill won an unprecedented string of personal awards that he didn’t mention. In 2009, the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award was renamed the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award in honor of the two-time Hall of Famer.

But despite all the triumphs, Bill’s understanding of the struggle has lit up his life. to leading the first all-around basketball camp in Mississippi after the assassination of Medgar Evans, to decades of work finally recognized by the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom award. Until. Bill set a powerful example, evoking injustice with unrelenting candor meant to disrupt the status quo. His humble intentions will never be, but will forever inspire teamwork, selflessness and thoughtful change.

Bill’s wife, Jeanine, and many of his friends and family thank you for keeping Bill’s prayers. Remember his trademark laugh as he happily explained the true story behind how those moments played out. And, building on Bill’s commitment to uncompromising, dignified, and always constructive principles, I hope each of us can find new ways to act or speak up. It will be the last and lasting victory for our beloved #6. ”

Born in Louisiana in 1934, Russell was not initially considered a top basketball contender. His first scholarship offer came from the University of San Francisco, which was largely unknown for his basketball prowess, but Russell was able to make consecutive national championship appearances in 1955 and 1956. In addition to basketball, Russell was a San Francisco track star, especially competing in the high jump. He won an Olympic gold medal in basketball as captain of his USA team in 1956 before turning pro.

Despite his college prominence, Russell was never the first pick in the 1956 NBA Draft. That honor went to his Si Green, the wing of Duquesne. Russell was therefore available in his No. 2, which the St. Louis Hawks were drafting. However, circumstances worked in Russell’s favour. The son of Boston Celtics star Ed McCauley was being treated for spinal meningitis in St. Louis, so he asked the team to send him there. They did, and Boston won the No. 2 pick in exchange for McCauley and his fellow Hall of Famer Cliff Hagan. The deal didn’t exactly blow up in the face of St. Louis. Although lost to Boston in the 1957 finals, the Hawks emerged victorious in his 1958 rematch against the Celtics. However, it would be the last championship they ever won.

The trade was important for Russell and for the Celtics. “If I had been drafted by St. Louis, I wouldn’t have been in the NBA,” Russell said in an interview with NBATV. Confronting racism during his childhood and throughout his Boston career, he became one of the most socially conscious athletes in American history. He attended Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech in person and was one of several black athletes and leaders who attended the 1967 Cleveland Summit in support of Muhammad Ali. In 1966, Russell became the first black head coach in American sports history, replacing Red Auerbach in Boston. He coached the team en route to its final two championships, while maintaining his role as the team’s starting center.

Russell left the Celtics after his playing career ended. He then worked as a television broadcaster before returning to coach the Seattle SuperSonics. 500 in his four seasons in Seattle before he was fired. He coached his Kings one more season in Sacramento a decade later, but in the decades that followed, he lived away from his home in Washington, largely out of the public eye. I didn’t bathe.

However, he made more regular public appearances in his later years and was often honored for his remarkable achievements as a player and activist. In 2009, the NBA renamed his Finals MVP award after Russell, and he attended his 2009 Finals to personally present Kobe Bryant with the trophy. He did so a few more times, but doing so for Bryant was especially meaningful given the friendship they built.When Bryant died in his 2020 helicopter crash, Russell was a legend. wrote an emotional social post on his media that recalls. Bryant may have played for the rival Lakers, but Russell frequently responded to modern-day players seeking advice.

Most of all Russell was on the court, so many people looked for him. He was the biggest winner in sports. He has only lost two playoff series in his entire career. He never lost a winner-take-all game. not a university. Not in the Olympics. Not in the NBA. He has won all of his 21 of such games played. Russell was a big presence on and off the court when it mattered most.