NBA great Bill Russell dies at 88

Fox News reports that Bill Russell, the National Basketball League (NBA) legend, has died at the age of 88. 

The announcement was made by Russell’s family on social media on Sunday.

The statement reads:

It is with a very heavy heart we would like to pass along to all of Bill’s friends, fans, & followers: Bill Russell, the most prolific winner in American sports history, passed away peacefully today at age 88, with his wife, Jeannine, by his side.

Remembering Russell on the court

Russell seemed destined for basketball stardom when he won two NCAA titles while playing at the University of San Francisco. From there, he would go on to dominate the NBA while playing for the Boston Celtics.

As a member of the Celtics, Russell led the team to 11 NBA titles over the period of only 13 years – this included an eight-year stretch of consecutive championships. Russell also would help lead the U.S. to an Olympic gold medal in 1956.

Russell was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame, and to this day he still holds many NBA records, including the records for championships, appearances, games played, rebounds, and minutes.

Remembering Russell off the court

There was much more to Russell’s life than just basketball, however. Russell used his success on the court for successful activism, particularly in the realm of civil rights, off the court.

This was highlighted in the statement released by Russell’s family on Sunday.

They wrote:

But for all the winning, Bill’s understanding of the struggle is what illuminated his life. From boycotting a 1961 exhibition game to unmask too-long-tolerated discrimination, to leading Mississippi’s first integrated basketball camp in the combustible wake of Medgar [Evers’] assassination, to decades of activism ultimately recognized by his receipt of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in [2011]. Bill called out injustice with an unforgiving candor that he intended would disrupt the status quo, and with a powerful example that, though never his humble intention, will forever inspire teamwork, selflessness, and thoughtful change.

Tributes

Following the news of his passing, many around the world, but especially in the NBA community, have been offering remembrances and tributes to Russell along with condolences to his family.

Fellow NBA great Isiah Thomas summed up the thoughts of many, writing, “Rest in peace Bill Russell you were everything we all aspired to be, your winning spirit will live forever my friend. Thank you for your words of wisdom.”

Russell’s family, in their statement, wrote: “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.”

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