Bill Russell, 11-time NBA champion and Boston Celtics legend, dies at 88

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

“It is with a heavy heart that we would like to go to all of Bill’s friends, fans and followers:

Bill Russell, the most prolific winner in American sports history, died today at the age of 88, peacefully with his wife Janine by his side. Arrangements for his memorial service will be announced soon.

Bill’s two state championships in high school offered a glimpse of an incredible run of pure team success to come: two-time NCAA champions; captain of the gold medal-winning US Olympic team; 11-time NBA champion; and led two NBA championships as the first black head coach of any North American professional sports team.

Along the way, Bill received a series of individual awards that stand out as unmentioned. In 2009, the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award was renamed the ‘Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award’ after the two-time Hall of Famer.

But for all the winners, Bill’s understanding of struggle is what brightened his life. From boycotting a 1961 exhibition game to exposing long-tolerated discrimination, to leading Mississippi’s first integrated basketball camp after the assassination of Medgar Evans, to decades of activism that ultimately led to his The presidential 200 was recognized by the receipt of freedom. Bill called out injustice with an unapologetic candor that he intended to disrupt the status quo, and with a powerful example that, though never his humble intention, would forever be teamwork, bay. Lust will encourage thoughtful change.

Thank you to Bill’s wife, Janine, and his many friends and family for keeping Bill in your prayers. Perhaps you’ll relive a golden moment or two that he gave us, or remember his trademark laugh as he delighted in explaining the real story behind those moments unfolding. And we hope that each of us can find a new way to act or speak with Bill’s uncompromising, dignified and always constructive commitment to principle. This will be one last, and lasting win for our beloved #6.”

Born in Louisiana in 1934, Russell was not initially considered a top basketball prospect. His first scholarship offer came from the University of San Francisco, a school hardly known for its basketball prowess but a school that Russell was able to lead to back-to-back national championships in 1955 and 1956. In addition to basketball, Russell was a track star in San Francisco. , especially competing in the high jump. He won an Olympic gold medal in basketball as captain of Team USA in 1956 before turning professional.

Despite his college prowess, Russell was not the first pick in the 1956 NBA draft. That honor went to Duquesne wing Si Green. That left Russell available at no. 2, where St. Louis Hawks was drafted. However, circumstances worked in Russell’s favor. The son of Boston Celtics star Ed McCauley was being treated for spinal meningitis in St. Louis. Louis, so he asked the team to send him there. They did, and Boston landed at No. 1. 2 pick in exchange for Macaulay and fellow Hall of Famer Cliff Hagen. This agreement was not made at all in St. Louis’s face. Although they lost the 1957 Finals to Boston, the Hawks came back to win it all in a 1958 rematch with the Celtics. But it would be the last championship they would ever win. Russell won 10 more, including the next eight in a row.

The trade was as important to Russell as it was to the Celtics. “If I had been drafted by St. Louis, I wouldn’t be in the NBA,” Russell said in an interview. NBA TV. “St. Louis was excessively racist.” Sadly, Russell faced racism throughout his early life in the South and throughout his career in Boston, becoming one of the most socially conscious players in American history. He personally attended Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech 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 coach in American sports history when he replaced Reid Auerbach in Boston. He maintained his role as the team’s starting center while coaching the team to its last two championships.

Russell left the Celtics when his playing career ended. He then worked as a television broadcaster before returning to coaching with the Seattle SuperSonics. He went four games under .500 in four seasons in Seattle before leaving. He would coach one more season with the Sacramento Kings a decade later, but otherwise remained largely out of the public eye for the next several decades, living out of his home in Washington.

But he appeared more regularly in public in his later years, often honored for his outstanding achievements as an athlete and activist. In 2009, the NBA named the Finals MVP award after Russell, and he attended the 2009 Finals to personally present the trophy to Kobe Bryant. He would do it many more times, but it was especially meaningful for Bryant to do so given the friendship they had built. When Bryant died in a 2020 helicopter crash, Russell wrote an emotional social media post remembering the legend. Bryant may have played for the rival Lakers, but Russell often made himself available to advanced players looking for advice.

Coffey found him, because more than anything Russell was on the court, he was the game’s biggest winner. He lost only two playoff series in his entire career. He never once lost a win-all game. Not in college. Not in the Olympics. Not in the NBA. He won all 21 games he played. Russell came up big when it mattered most, on and off the court, and that’s what he’ll always be remembered for.