The world lost a giant this weekend (July 31). Former Boston Celtics great Bill Russell peacefully passed away Sunday afternoon, according to family sources. The legendary center was 88 years old but left an immeasurable worth of impact on everyone he encountered.
Russell was one of the most decorated athletes of all-time. At the University of San Francisco, where he attended college, Russell was a two-time All-American, won two straight NCAA championships and led the team to 55 consecutive wins. He also was on the 1956 Olympic team that won the gold medal in Melbourne, Australia.
After being utterly amazing at the amateur level, Russell would continue his greatness in the pros. In a 13 year span playing with the Boston Celtics, Russell led the team to the NBA Finals 12 times, winning 11 of them. He won the last two titles as both a player and serving as the NBA’s first Black coach.
While his presence was most definitely felt on the court, it was off the court where he became an icon. Bill Russell was one of the first athletes to actively fight against racial injustices. Whether it was him boycotting a 1961 exhibition game to expose discrimination or him leading Mississippi’s first integrated basketball camp after Medgar Evers assassination, he never ran from the challenge of activism. He was honored for his efforts in 2011 when former President Barack Obama awarded him with Presidential Medal of Freedom for his accomplishments on the court and in the civil rights movement.
Considered to be one of the greatest basketball players, let alone athletes of all-time, Russell undoubtedly left his mark. He inspired a generation of athletes to speak up for the things that they believed mattered. He is a one of one because of the fact that he not only could give it all on the floor, but he was willing to put it all on the line off of it too. Rest in paradise to a historic figure! Here are 6 facts that you might not have known about the legend.
1. In between his coaching jobs, Russell also served as a commentator for televised basketball games.
2. Russell attended the March on Washington in 1963 where Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the ‘I Have A Dream’ speech.
3. From 1973-1977, Russell was the general manager and head coch of the Seattle Supersonics.
4. He was the founder and Emeritus board member of MENTOR: The National Mentorship Partnership.
5. Russell’s eleven championships are tied for the most by any athlete in the four major North American professional sports (Henri Richard of the NHL also has eleven).
6. Although he never won the award himself because it wasn’t implemented until 1969, the NBA Finals MVP Award was named after him in 2009.