NBA icon Bill Russell has died at the age of 88.
The Boston Celtics legend won 11 titles with the team in 1956 and 1969, and an Olympic gold medal with the United States in 1956 in Melbourne.
His two NCAA titles in San Francisco in 1955 and ’56 paved the way for him to become a five-time NBA MVP and a 12-time All-Star.
His family said in a statement on Sunday (31.07.22): “It is with a heavy heart that we wish to pass along all of Bill’s friends, fans and followers: Bill Russell, the most prolific winner in American sports history, He passed away peacefully today at the age of 88, with his wife Jeanine by his side. The arrangements for his memorial service will be announced soon.
Russell averaged 15.1 points and 22.5 rebounds in 13 seasons with the Celtics and was first inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a player in 1975, and then as a coach in 2021.
His number 6 jersey has been retired by the Celtics and in 2011 Russell was awarded America’s highest civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The Louisiana athlete, the greatest defensive player in NBA history, left a legacy of civil rights and was on March in Washington in 1963 when Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream.”
He also supported Muhammad Ali when the boxer was reprimanded for refusing to be included in the military draft.
President Barack Obama awarded the Medal of Freedom to Russell in 2011 along with Congressman John Lewis, billionaire investor Warren Buffett, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and baseball hero Stan Musiel.
Obama said at the time: “Bill Russell, the man who has stood up for the rights and dignity of all men.
“He went with the king; He was standing with Ali. When a restaurant refused to serve black Celtics, it refused to play in the scheduled game.
“He tolerated humiliation and vandalism, but he focused on making the teammates he loved better players and making possible the success of so many others who would follow.”
Russell’s parents gave him the quiet confidence that allowed him to shrug off racist taunts, saying in 2008 that he felt their love as soon as he was born.