NBA and Boston Celtics icon Bill Russell dies at 88

The NBA is in mourning after the death of William Fenton ‘Bill’ Russell (Monroe, Louisiana, 1934) was announced on Sunday at the age of 88, according to Shams Charania (The Athletic). Russell was one of the first stars in basketball league history and the man with the most rings in sports history with 11 in just 13 years, including two as a player-coach . All of that success has come to Boston, along with its beloved Celtics. He took the team to the dawn of the NBA alongside his great mentor Red Auberbach with eight consecutive victories between 1959 and 1966, eclipsing the New York Yankees and their five World Series from 1949 to 1953, and the Montreal Canadiens with their five Stanley Cups (1956 to 1960).

Russell was crowned MVP of the competition five times (1958, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1963, 1965) and 12 times elected to the annual North American League All-Star Game., while becoming the first African-American coach in NBA history in 1966, after succeeding Red Auerbach. A man without equal and a true pioneer in all areas of basketball.

Silver mourns ‘greatest champion’

NBA commissioner Adam Silver released a message of condolence to his family and the basketball world stating that “Bill Russell was the greatest champion in the history of team sports”.

His eight consecutive championships (1959-1966) gave way to a period as player-manager that culminated in two more championships (1968, 1969). After winning the latter trophy, he retired at the age of 35.

Full screen


Russell–Chamberlain rivalry

His rivalry with Wilt Chamberlain was the first major fight between two NBA giants. The 1964 championship was played against the San Francisco Warriors, where the legendary center played. In the eight playoffs they have faced, Russell has been victorious in seven.

In terms of career averages, Russell grabbed 22.5 rebounds per game, with one game at 50 rebounds and two games at 49 rebounds. He averaged 15 points in his 13 NBA seasons and had 12 straight seasons grabbing 1,000 or more rebounds.

His influence extends to basketball to this day, with the Finals MVP trophy bearing his name since February 2009 (announced by then-NBA Commissioner David Stern.)

Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russel

Full screen

Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russel BettmannArchive Bettmann

Beyond the court

Bill Russell’s legacy in American sports goes beyond his abilities on the court. His impact on the race struggle in the United States established him as one of the greatest figures in basketball history with the former Celtics player receiving the Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama in 2011.

Russell participated in the 1963 March on Washington alongside Martin Luther King to defend social rights, in addition to having been, for decades an active figure in anti-racism campaigns with sportsmen such as Mohammed Ali and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Indeed, he joined the center of the Lakers during the famous summit in Cleveland in 1967, protecting the boxer after his refusal to fight in Vietnam.

Comments are closed.