Bill Russell, Boston Celtics’ former star center that drove the team to win 11 NBA championships, sadly passed away at the age of 88 on Sunday.
Russell died peacefully with his wife Jeannine by his side, according to a Twitter post that did not mention the cause of death.
“Bill stood for something much bigger than sports: the values of equality, respect and inclusion that he stamped into the DNA of our league,” Adam Silver, the commissioner of the NBA, said.
The outstanding center became a superstar during the early stages of the league and later became the cornerstone of the Celtics dynasty that won eight straight NBA chips.
During those years, he was not known for his scoring skills, but for his rebounding and defensive prowess. Russell was the only player in that time to go toe-to-toe against the late Wilt Chamberlain, who was also a rebounding machine in the league.
In addition, Russell was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 by President Barack Obama, the nation’s highest civilian honor, proving that he is not only a huge influence in basketball but on the nation as well.
“Bill Russell, the man, is someone who stood up for the rights and dignity of all men,” Obama said during the event. “He marched with King; he stood by Ali. When a restaurant refused to serve the Black Celtics, he refused to play in the scheduled game. He endured insults and vandalism, but he kept on focusing on making the teammates who he loved better players and made possible the success of so many who would follow.”
Russell was also the first black coach in the league. Within those eleven championships, two of them were won by Russell as a player-coach.
During his prime with Boston, he played with many talented players, namely, Heinsohn, Cousy, Ramsey, Sharman, Sanders, Havlicek, Nelson, Sam Jones, and K.C. Jones, as well as his coach Red Auerbach that would later join the NBA Hall of Fame.
He finished his career with more rebounds than points, averaging 15.1 points and a remarkable 22.5 rebounds per contest.
Russell had one of his notable performances when he grabbed 51 total boards in a single game, recording it as the second-best single-game rebounding output, just four boards shy of tying Chamberlain’s record of 55 rebounds in a match. But, Russell still holds the record for most rebounds in one half when he racked up 32 of them.
Even though Russell never won any, the Finals MVP trophy was named in his honor in 2009. He never earned this award despite collecting numerous championships because it was not given until 1969 by the league.
The Celtics retired Russell’s No. 6 jersey in 1972. He earned places on the NBA’s 25th anniversary all-time team in 1970, the 35th-anniversary team in 1980, and the recent 75th-anniversary team. He was also commended as one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players in 1996.