BOSTON (AP) — Bill Russell, the NBA nice who anchored a Boston Celtics dynasty that received 11 championships in 13 years — the final two as the primary Black head coach in any main U.S. sport — and marched for civil rights with Martin Luther King Jr., died Sunday. He was 88.
His family posted the news on social media, saying Russell died along with his spouse, Jeannine, by his aspect. The assertion didn’t give the reason for loss of life.
“Bill’s wife, Jeannine, and his many friends and family thank you for keeping Bill in your prayers. Perhaps you’ll relive one or two of the golden moments he gave us, or recall his trademark laugh as he delighted in explaining the real story behind how those moments unfolded,” the household assertion mentioned. “And we hope each of us can find a new way to act or speak up with Bill’s uncompromising, dignified and always constructive commitment to principle. That would be one last, and lasting, win for our beloved #6.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver mentioned in a press release that Russell was “the greatest champion in all of team sports.”
“Bill stood for something much bigger than sports: the values of equality, respect and inclusion that he stamped into the DNA of our league. At the height of his athletic career, Bill advocated vigorously for civil rights and social justice, a legacy he passed down to generations of NBA players who followed in his footsteps,” Silver mentioned. “Through the taunts, threats and unthinkable adversity, Bill rose above all of it and remained true to his perception that everybody deserves to be handled with dignity.
A Hall of Famer, five-time Most Valuable Player and 12-time All-Star, Russell in 1980 was voted the best participant within the NBA historical past by basketball writers. He stays the game’s most prolific winner and an archetype of selflessness who received with protection and rebounding whereas leaving the scoring to others. Often, that meant Wilt Chamberlain, the one participant of the period who was a worthy rival for Russell.
The battles on the court docket between the facilities had been fierce — signature showdowns within the NBA. Russell led the University of San Francisco to NCAA championships in 1955 and 1956 and received a gold medal at the 1956 Olympics.
In Boston, Russell left a long-lasting mark as a Black athlete in a metropolis — and nation — the place race is usually a flash level. In 2011, President Barack Obama awarded Russell the Medal of Freedom. Two years later, a statue of Russell was unveiled on Boston’s City Hall Plaza.
“I cherished my friendship with Bill and was thrilled when he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom,” Silver mentioned in his assertion. “I often called him basketball’s Babe Ruth for how he transcended time. Bill was the ultimate winner and consummate teammate, and his influence on the NBA will be felt forever. We send our deepest condolences to his wife, Jeannine, his family and his many friends.”
His household mentioned that preparations for Russell’s memorial service might be introduced within the coming days.