NBA Legend Bill Russell Dead at 88-Years-Old

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Bill Russell, an 11-time NBA Champion with the Boston Celtics, the first Black head coach in a major North American sporting organization, and a civil rights activist who once marched with Martin Luther King Jr., passed away peacefully on Sunday at the age of 88.

Showing glimmers of greatness early in his journey, Russell won two state championships in high school and two NCAA championships with the University of San Francisco. He would later go on to become the captain of a gold-medal-winning US Olympic team and secure 11 NBA Championships in just 13 years to become the most prolific winner in American sports history. At 6-foot-10, Russell averaged more than 20 rebounds every season and holds the all-time record with 55. Recognized in the Hall of Fame as an all-time great for his achievements as both a player and a coach, the NBA Finals MVP was renamed in 2009 to include his name. Beyond his achievements on the court, Bill Russell was a resounding voice and lifelong activist in the pursuit of societal change.

"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 Evans' 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." his family wrote in an announcement. "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."

"Bill Russell was a pioneer — as a player, as a champion, as the NBA’s first Black head coach and as an activist. He paved the way and set an example for every other Black player who came into the league after him, including me," Michael Jordan said in a statement. "The world has lost a legend. My condolences to his family and may he rest in peace."

Arrangements for Russell's memorial service will be announced by his family in the coming days. Take a look below as the league pays respect to the icon.