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“It is with a very heavy heart we would like to pass along to all of Bill’s friends, fans, & followers,” the statement reads. “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.”
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Bill Russell played thirteen seasons with the Boston Celtics. He was awarded five MVP awards, four rebounding titles, named to all four NBA anniversary teams, and secured the Celtics eleven NBA Championships — nine as a player, two as the first Black NBA head coach. In 2009, the NBA’s MVP trophy was renamed after Russell in honor of his dominance in the league.
Alongside his unrivaled sporting feats in the NBA as a part of the Boston Celtics, Russell was also a force for social change. He marched alongside Martin Luther King in 1963’s March on Washington and stood with legendary boxer Muhammad Ali when he opposed the United States military draft in 1967.
For his glorious civil rights efforts, Bill Russell was awarded the Medal of Freedom in 2010 by former U.S. President Barack Obama, noting his bravery during racially charged and uncertain times.
Perhaps more than anyone else, Bill knew what it took to win and what it took to lead. On the court, he was the greatest champion in basketball history. Off of it, he was a civil rights trailblazer—marching with Dr. King and standing with Muhammad Ali.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) July 31, 2022
Obama spoke about the loss of the Celtics legend and his contributions to society at large.
“Today, we lost a giant. As tall as Bill Russell stood, his legacy rises far higher — both as a player and as a person,” former President Barack Obama tweeted. “For decades, Bill endured insults and vandalism but never let it stop him from speaking up for what’s right. I learned so much from the way he played, the way he coached, and the way he lived his life. Michelle and I send our love to Bill’s family and everyone who admired him.”
Other NBA champions chimed in with support and condolences for the icon’s passing, such as Michael Jordan, who spoke to Bill’s destruction of the NBA’s race barrier, paving the way for players like himself.
Michael Jordan on the passing of Bill Russell: pic.twitter.com/kQfRPgUoAB
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 31, 2022
“[Bill Russell] paved the way and set an example for every Black player who came into the league after him, including me. The world has lost a legend. My condolences to his family, and may he rest in peace.”
VIBE sends our condolences to the family and friends of Bill Russell. May he rest in peace.