Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell, who won 11 NBA titles and was a giant when it came to social justice, died Sunday at 88, his family said.
“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,” the family said.
A Hall of Famer, five-time Most Valuable Player, and 12-time All-Star, Russell was voted the greatest player in the NBA history by basketball writers in 1980.
Professional sports has never seen a greater winner before nor since. Russell won 11 championships in his just 13 seasons as a professional player. That is crazy when you really think of it , the NBA named its Finals MVP award in his honor.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver called Russell “the greatest champion in all of team sports.”
I am more proud of the champion Russell was off the court. We have all seen the iconic photo of the black power Summit, with Russell, Alcindor, Jim Brown among others. Russell was a champion for social justice. He fought the biggest fight of his life and he won at that too. Four years ago I spoke with author Gary Pomerantz on my radio show, who filled me in on the hate Russell had to deal with while playing for the Celtics in his book “The Last Pass” . The book was about Celtic teammate Bob Cousy who was aware of the racism Russell felt and his regret for not supporting his black teammate more. Yes, you had people in the very city he was winning championships for who still thought of him as less of a man because of the color of his skin. Through it all he persevered. I encourage everyone to listen to Gary tell the truth about what Bill Russell fought while winning championships in Boston. He carried a whole city on his back while fighting America’s biggest sickness. Racism, a fight that continues today. All of us should thank Bill Russell today.