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Russell’s death was announced by his family when they went on social media and posted, “Bill Russell, the most prolific winner in American sports history, passed away peacefully today at age 88, with his wife, Jeannine, by his side. 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 Honor in 2010, Bill called out justice 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 hopeful change.”
“Perhaps you’ll live 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. And we hope each of us can find a new way to act or speak up with Bill’s uncompromising, dignified, and always a constructive commitment to principle. That would be one last, and lasting, win for our beloved #6.”
Bill Russel born William Felton Russell came to the world on February 12, 1934, in rural Louisiana. His family left for Oakland after being subjected to the racist taunt by people.
His experience while growing up shaped him into becoming an activist. The basketball legend supported the American civil rights movement and spoke out against the Vietnam War.
In 1955 and 1955, Russel helped lead USF to National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championships.
His height was of great use in Basketball and became the fuel that kept the Celtics moving. Russell won 11 NBA championships (1957, 1959–66, and 1968–69).
Russell told Sport magazine in 1963, recalling his college career, “No one had ever played basketball the way I played it, or as well. They had never seen anyone block shots before. Now I’ll be conceited: I like to think I originated a whole new style of play.”
The Celtics said in a statement, “To be the greatest champion in your sport, to revolutionize the way the game is played, and to be a societal leader all at once seems unthinkable, but that is who Bill Russell was. Bill Russell’s DNA is woven through every element of the Celtics organization, from the relentless pursuit of excellence to the celebration of team rewards over individual glory, to a commitment to social justice and civil rights off the court.”
“Our thoughts are with his family as we mourn his passing and celebrate his enormous legacy in basketball, Boston, and beyond.”