NBA legend Bill Russell has died at the age of 88

NBA legend Bill Russell has died at the age of 88, his family said in a statement on social media.

“Bill Russell, the most prolific winner in American sports history, passed away peacefully today at the age of 88, with his wife Jeannine at his side. Arrangements for his memorial service will be announced soon,” the family said in a statement posted to Mr Russell’s Twitter account on Sunday.

“Bill’s two state championships in high school heralded the unparalleled streak of pure team effort to come: two-time NCAA champion; captain of a gold medal-winning US Olympic team; 11-time NBA champion and topped two NBA championships as the first black head coach of a North American professional sports team,” the statement said.

“Along the way, Bill has received a number of individual awards that are unparalleled in having not been mentioned by him. 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,” the family added.

The statement said Mr Russell’s “understanding of the struggle … brightened his life”.

“From boycotting a 1961 exhibition game to exposing discrimination that had been tolerated for too long, to running the first integrated basketball camp in Mississippi after the combustible assassination of Medgar Evans, to decades of activism finally recognized by his receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in [2011]”Called out injustice with an unforgiving frankness that he intended to upset the status quo, and with a powerful example that, though it was never his humble intention, will forever inspire teamwork, selflessness and thoughtful change,” she said Family.

Former Boston Celtics basketball player Bill Russell addresses an audience May 18, 2011 during a campaign fundraiser in Boston


In a statement, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Mr. Russell is “the greatest champion in all team sports.”

“Bill represented something much bigger than sport: the values ​​of equality, respect and inclusion that he inculcated into our league’s DNA. At the height of his athletic career, Bill was a vigorous advocate for civil rights and social justice, a legacy he passed on to generations of NBA players who followed in his footsteps,” said Mr. Silver. “Despite all the taunts, threats and unimaginable adversity, Bill stood above it all and remained true to his belief that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity.”

When President Barack Obama presented Mr. Russell with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011, he said, “Bill Russell, the man, is someone who stood up for the rights and dignity of all men.”

“He marched with King; He stood by Ali. When a restaurant refused to serve the Black Celtics, he refused to attend the scheduled game. He endured insults and vandalism, but he remained focused on making the teammates he loved better players and enabling the success of so many who would follow him,” Obama added.

Born in 1934, Mr. Russell grew up in the segregated South and later lived in California. He said his parents gave him the confidence to shrug off racial slurs.

“Years later, people have asked me what I was going through,” he said in 2008, according to the Associated Press. “Unfortunately or fortunately, I’ve never been through anything. From my first moment the idea was that my mother and father loved me.”

His mother told him to ignore comments from some who might see him in the courtyard.

“Whatever they say, good or bad, they don’t know you,” he recalled his mother saying. “They wrestle with their own demons.”

Mr Silver added that he “phoned a lot [Mr Russell] Basketball babe Ruth for crossing the clock.”

“Bill was the ultimate winner and consummate teammate, and his impact on the NBA will forever be felt,” he added. “We express our deepest condolences to his wife Jeannine, his family and his many friends.” NBA legend Bill Russell has died at the age of 88

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