NBA Legend Bill Russell Dead at 88

NBA superstar Bill Russell, who won 11 championships with the Boston Celtics and became the first black head coach of any North American sports team, died at the age of 88 on July 31.

By Emlyn Travis Jul 31, 2022 8:18 PMTags
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The sports world is mourning the loss of a legendary athlete.  

NBA superstar Bill Russell passed away on July 31, per a Twitter statement. The Hall of Famer, who won 11 NBA championships in 13 years with the Boston Celtics, made history both on and off the court by becoming the first Black head coach of any North American sports team in 1966. 

"Bill Russell, the most prolific winner in American sports history, passed away peacefully today at age 88, with his wife, Jeannine, by his side," the statement began. "Arrangements for his memorial service will be announced soon." 

The athlete—who was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a player in 1975 and again as a coach in 2021—achieved an impressive list of accomplishments throughout his decades-long career. The statement went on to share that he was "twice an NCAA champion; captain of a gold-medal-winning US Olympic team; 11 times an NBA champion; and at the helm for two NBA championships as the first black head coach of any North American sports team."

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In 2011, Bill received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from former President Barack Obama who, at the time, noted, "More than any athlete of his era, Bill Russell came to define the word ‘winner.'" The NBA Finals MVP award was also renamed after him in 2009. 

Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Outside of his incredible NBA career, Bill was also an outspoken civil rights activist. 

"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 Freedom in 2010," the Twitter statement continued. "Bill called out injustice 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 thoughtful change." 

The statement thanked fans for their love and support and encouraged them to keep his spirit and message alive. "We hope each of us can find a new way to act of speak up with Bill's uncompromising, dignified and always constructive commitment to principle," it concluded. "That would be one last, and lasting, win for our beloved #6." 

Following the announcement of his passing, the Boston Celtics also shared a Twitter statement in remembrance of their beloved coach and star.  

"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," they tweeted in part. "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." 

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