August 19, 2022

Legendary Boston Celtics player, coach Bill Russell dies at 88

The sports world is in mourning this week after news emerged on Sunday that legendary NBA player and coach Bill Russell died at the age of 88, as ESPN.com reports.

According to a statement posted to social media, the Boston Celtics great passed “peacefully” with his wife, Jeannine, by his side, and though no cause of death was made public, Russell’s inability to attend the NBA Finals MVP trophy in June was suggestive of a relatively long illness.

Russell’s professional achievements over the decades were voluminous and included a pair of high school basketball championship titles, two NCAA championships, an Olympic gold medal, and an astounding 11 NBA titles, the last two of which were won during seasons when he also served as a coach – the first Black to helm a team in all of American professional sports, as the Daily Wire noted.

With otherworldly shot-blocking skills, Russell has long been considered a revolutionary force in defensive basketball, and his abilities made him a five-time NBA MVP winner as well as a 12-time All-Star, feats that place him squarely in the pantheon of the sport.

As ESPN further noted, Russell ended his career with a staggering 21,620 total rebounds – notching 51 in a single game – as well as an average of 15.1 points and 4.3 assists across his entire tenure on the court.

As the statement announcing his death explained, Russell’s impact transcended the hardwoods. “But for all the winning, Bill’s struggle is what illuminated his life…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,” his loved ones wrote.

In marking his passing, the Boston Celtics – the team with which Russell’s professional career was made – issued a statement saying, “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.”

Current NBA commissioner Adam Silver was among those who expressed their sadness on Sunday, according to CBS Sports, declaring, “Bill stood for something much bigger than sports; the values of equality, respect and inclusion that he stamped into the DNA of our league. …I often called him basketball’s Babe Ruth for how he transcended time. Bill was the ultimate winner and consummate teammate, and his influence on the NBA will be felt forever.”

Perhaps best encapsulating the mark Russell left on his sport as well as the world was fellow NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who poignantly wrote, “Bill Russell was the quintessential big man…not because of his height but because of the size of his heart. In basketball, he showed us how to play with grace and passion. In life, he showed us how to live with compassion and joy.”

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14 days ago

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