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Bill Russell, Boston Celtics legend and NBA Hall of Famer, 88. dead on

Bill Russell, 11-time NBA champion as a player and coach with the Boston Celtics and one of the most important figures in NBA history, has died at the age of 88, his family announced on Sunday. Russell passed away peacefully with his wife Jeanine.

In a statement shared on Russell’s official Twitter account announcing the news, his family reflected on his life and legacy, calling the game “the most spectacular winner in American sports history.”

“It is with a very heavy heart that we would like to pass along all of Bill’s friends, fans and followers: Bill Russell, the most prolific winner in American sports history, passed away peacefully with his wife, Jeanine, at the age of 88 today. Gaya. His side. The arrangements for his memorial service will be announced soon,” the statement began.

Bill’s two state championships in high school offered a glimpse of an incomparable run of pure team achievement to come: two-time NCAA champion; captain of the gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic team; 11-time NBA champion; and someone at the top for Also served as the first Black head coach of a North American professional sports team in two NBA championships,” the statement continued. Along the way, the Bills earned a string of individual awards that are unprecedented because it went unnoticed by them. In 2009, the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award was named after two-time Hall of Famer ‘Bills’ Russell NBA Finals’ Most Valuable Player Award.'”

bill russell
William Hoff / NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

“But for all the victors, Bill’s understanding of the struggle illuminated his life. From the 1961 exhibition game boycott to highlighting the much-tolerated discrimination Mississippi in the combustible wake of the murder of Medgar Evans To lead the U.S.’s first integrated basketball camp, decades of activism were eventually recognized by his receipt of the Presidential Medal of Freedom… The bill invoked injustice with an unforgivable candor that his intention would disrupt the status quo, and a With powerful example, though his humble intentions will never be, forever inspire teamwork, selflessness and thoughtful change,” the statement, which included a photo of Russell, his wife and their two dogs, went on to read .

“Bill’s wife, Jeanine, and many of his friends and family thanked Bill for keeping him in their prayers. Perhaps you’ll relive one or two of the golden moments he had, or explain the real story. I will remember with delight his trademark laughter. The moments behind those unfolding moments,” Russell’s family said, concluding the lengthy statement. “And we hope that each of us can find a new way to act or speak with Bill’s uncompromising, respectful and always constructive commitment to principle. This is one last for our beloved #6. And there will be lasting victory.”

Born in Louisiana in 1934, Russell was not initially considered basketball’s top prospect. His first scholarship offer came from the University of San Francisco, a school hardly known for its basketball skills, but one that Russell was able to take to consecutive national championships in 1955 and 1956. In addition to basketball, Russell was a track star in San Francisco. , especially competing in the high jump. He won an Olympic gold medal in basketball as the captain of Team USA in 1956 before turning professional.

Despite his collegiate excellence, Russell was not the first choice in the 1956 NBA Draft. That honor went to Duquesne Wing Sea Green. This made Russell available at No. 2, where the St. Louis Hawks were drafting. However, circumstances worked in Russell’s favor. Boston Celtics star Ed McCauley’s son was being treated for spinal meningitis in St. Louis, so he asked the team to send him in as a favor. He did so, and landed the No. 2 pick in exchange for Boston McAulley and fellow Hall-of-Famer Cliff Hagen. The deal didn’t blow up in St. Louis’ face at all. Although they lost to Boston in the 1957 final, the Hawks returned to win it all in a rematch with the Celtics in 1958. But that will be the last championship they will ever win. Russell won 10 more, including eight in a row.

Trade was as important to Russell as it was to the Celtics. “If I had been drafted by St. Louis, I wouldn’t have been in the NBA,” Russell said in an interview with NBATV. “St. Louis was highly racist.” Sadly, Russell faced racism in his early life in the South and throughout his career in Boston, and he went on to become one of the most socially conscious athletes in American history. He personally participated in Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and was one of many black athletes and leaders who attended the 1967 Cleveland Summit in support of Muhammad Ali. In 1966, Russell became the first black head coach in American sports history when he replaced Red Auerbach in Boston. He retained his role as the team’s starting center, coaching the team on the way to their last two championships.

this story was originally Published by CBS Sports 1:24 p.m. ET.

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