(NEXSTAR) – Invoice Russell, one of many best NBA gamers in historical past, has handed away at age 88, his household introduced Sunday.
Russell, referred to as “probably the most prolific winner in American sports activities historical past” by his household, was an 11-time NBA champion, captain of a gold-medal-winning U.S. Olympic group, and the primary Black head coach of any North American skilled sports activities group.
Born on Feb. 12, 1934, in Monroe, Louisiana, Russell and his household later moved to California. He attended highschool in Oakland and led the College of San Francisco to NCAA championships in 1955 and 1956. He additionally gained a gold medal on the 1956 Olympics.
Russell was drafted within the first spherical of the 1956 NBA draft by the St. Louis Hawks however was quickly traded to the Boston Celtics. He spent 13 years in Boston – 10 as a participant and three as a coach. In that point, the group gained 11 championships.
He was the primary Black head coach in NBA historical past when he turned player-coach in 1966. He retired after the 1969 NBA finals however later spent 4 years as coach and normal supervisor of the Seattle SuperSonics and a half-season as coach for the Sacramento Kings.
The Corridor of Famer was named Most Invaluable Participant 5 occasions and was a 12-time All-Star. In 1980, Russell was voted the best participant in NBA historical past by basketball writers. He stays the game’s most prolific winner and an archetype of selflessness who gained with protection and rebounding whereas leaving the scoring to others. Usually, that meant Wilt Chamberlain, the one participant of the period who was a worthy rival for Russell.
Russell’s No. 6 jersey was retired by the Celtics in 1972. He earned spots on the NBA’s twenty fifth anniversary all-time group in 1970 and Thirty fifth-anniversary group in 1980. In 1996, he was hailed as one of many NBA’s 50 best gamers. In 2009, the MVP trophy of the NBA Finals was named in his honor.
In 2013, a statue was unveiled on Boston’s Metropolis Corridor Plaza of Russell surrounded by blocks of granite with quotes on management and character. Russell was inducted into the Basketball Corridor of Fame in 1975 however didn’t attend the ceremony, saying he shouldn’t have been the primary African American elected. (Chuck Cooper, the NBA’s first Black participant, was his alternative.)
In 2019, Russell accepted his Corridor of Fame ring in a personal gathering. “I felt others earlier than me ought to have had that honor,” he tweeted. “Good to see progress.”
“However for all of the profitable, Invoice’s understanding of the wrestle is what illuminated his life,” Russell’s household stated in a press release. “From boycotting a 1961 exhibition sport to [unmasking] too-long-tolerated discrimination, to main Mississippi’s first built-in basketball camp within the flamable wake of Medgar Evans’ assassination, to a long time of activism in the end acknowledged by his receipt of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010, Invoice referred to as out injustice with an unforgiving candor that he meant would disrupt the established order, and with a robust instance that, although by no means his humble intention, will eternally encourage teamwork, selflessness, and considerate change.”
Russell was on the March on Washington in 1963, when Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech, and he backed Muhammad Ali when the boxer was pilloried for refusing induction into the army draft.
In 2011, President Barack Obama awarded Russell the Medal of Freedom.
“Invoice Russell, the person, is somebody who stood up for the rights and dignity of all males,” Obama stated on the ceremony. “When a restaurant refused to serve the Black Celtics, he refused to play within the scheduled sport. He endured insults and vandalism, however he saved on specializing in making the teammates who he cherished higher gamers and made attainable the success of so many who would observe.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver stated in a press release Sunday that Russell was “the best champion in all of group sports activities.”
“Invoice stood for one thing a lot greater than sports activities: the values of equality, respect and inclusion that he stamped into the DNA of our league. On the peak of his athletic profession, Invoice advocated vigorously for civil rights and social justice, a legacy he handed right down to generations of NBA gamers who adopted in his footsteps,” Silver stated. “By way of the taunts, threats and unthinkable adversity, Invoice rose above all of it and remained true to his perception that everybody deserves to be handled with dignity.
Russell “handed away peacefully” together with his spouse, Jeannine, by his facet on Sunday. His explanation for loss of life has not but been launched.
His household stated that preparations for Russell’s memorial service might be introduced within the coming days.
The Related Press contributed to this report.
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