Tributes are pouring in following the death of Boston Celtics legend and NBA trailblazer Bill Russell, 88, whose work in civil rights went far beyond the basketball court.
Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell dies at 88
Bill Russell was the keystone of the Boston Celtics dynasty that won eight consecutive titles. The Hall of Fame center won 11 titles in his career. Sadly, Russell died on Sunday at the age of 88.
The cause of Russell's death has not yet been revealed, but a statement posted on social media read that he died "peacefully." His wife, Jeanine, was at his side, ESPN reported.
Russell was a five-time NBA MVP and is tied with Henri Richard of the NHL for the most titles in a North American sports league, the New York Post reported.
Russell was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2011, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
"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," read a statement issued by his family on social media. "And 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."
More highlights of Russell's career
After retiring from basketball, Russell moved into hosting radio and television talk shows and writing newspaper columns on general topics. In 1973, he became coach and general manager for the Seattle SuperSonics, a six-year-old expansion franchise that had never made the playoffs. The team made two trips under Russell.
A decade later, Russell would return to coaching, taking the helm for the Sacramento Kings in 1987-88 but departing midseason. Russell also worked as a color commentator on televised basketball games. He was honored by the city of Boston in 2013 with a statue at City Hall Plaza.
Tributes to Bill Russell
A number of athletes and celebrities have offered tributes honoring Bill Russell after his death.
Michael Jordan: "Bill Russell was a pioneer—as a player, as a champion, as the NBA’s first Black head coach and as an activist," Jordan wrote on Twitter via the Charlotte Hornets channel. "He 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."
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver tweeted: "Bill Russell was the greatest champion in all of team sports. The countless accolades that he earned for his storied career with the Boston Celtics – including a record 11 championships and five MVP awards – only begin to tell the story of Bill's immense impact on our league and broader society. Bill stood for something much bigger than sports: Values of equality, respect and inclusion that he stamped into the DNA of our league. At the height of his athletic career, Bill advocated vigorously for civil rights and social justice, a legacy he passed down the generations of NBA players who followed in his footsteps. Through the taunts, threats and unthinkable adversity, Bill rose above it all and remained true to his belief that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity."
Magic Johnson tweeted: "This is a tremendous loss for the entire basketball world. Cookie and I are praying for Bill’s family and loved ones, our NBA family, and the entire basketball community."