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NBA legend Bill Russell – one of the most successful players in the history of basketball and the first black coach in any North American professional sports team – dies at 88 with his wife Jeannine by his side
NBA legend Bill Russell, an 11-time NBA champion, has died at the age of 88.
His family said that he ‘passed away peacefully at age 88 with his wife, Jeannine, by his side’.
They said in a statement on Sunday: ‘It is with a very heavy heart we would like to pass along to all of Bill’s friends, fans & followers:
‘Bill Russell, the most prolific winner in American sports history, passed away peacefully today at age 88, with his wife Jeannine, by his side. Arrangements for his memorial service will be announced soon.
‘Bill’s two state championships in high school offered a glimmer of the incomparable run of pure team accomplishment to come: 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 professional sports team.
‘Along the way Bill earned a string of individual awards that stands unprecedented as it went unmentioned by him. In 2009, the award for the NBA finals most valuable player was renamed after two-time Hall of Famer as the “Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award.’
NBA legend Bill Russell has passed away at the age of 88
‘But 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 Freedom in 2010, 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.
‘Bill’s wife, Jeannine, and his many friends and family thank you for keeping Bill in your prayers. Perhaps you’ll relive 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 constructive commitment to principle. That would be one last, and lasting, win for our beloved #6.’
In addition to his civil rights work, he’s considered one of the greatest winners in US sports history and the greatest defensive player in NBA history.
While playing for Boston, he experienced significant racism and ultimately decided to have his jersey retired in a private ceremony rather than sharing the moment with fans.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was quick to pay tribute, saying: ‘Bill Russell was the greatest champion in all of team sports.
‘The countless accolades that he earned for his storied career with the Boston Celtics – including a record 11 championships and five MVP awards – only begin to tell the story of Bill’s immense impact on our league and broader society.’