Boston Celtics great Bill Russell, 11-time NBA champion, dies at 88

Bill Russell, the cornerstone of the Boston Celtics dynasty that gained eight straight titles and 11 general throughout his profession, died Sunday. The Hall of Famer was 88.

Russell died “peacefully” together with his spouse, Jeannine, at his facet, learn an announcement posted on social media. Arrangements for his memorial service shall be introduced quickly, in keeping with the assertion.

“But for all of the successful, Bill’s understanding of the wrestle is what illuminated his life. From boycotting a 1961 exhibition sport to unmask too-long-tolerated discrimination, to main Mississippi’s first built-in basketball camp within the flamable wake of Medgar [Evers’] assassination, to a long time of activism in the end acknowledged by his receipt of the Presidential Medal of Freedom … Bill known as out injustice with an unforgiving candor that he meant would disrupt the established order, and with a robust instance that, although by no means his humble intention, will eternally encourage teamwork, selflessness and considerate change,” the assertion learn.

“Bill’s spouse, Jeannine, and his many family and friends thanks for conserving Bill in your prayers. Perhaps you will relive one or two of the golden moments he gave us, or recall his trademark giggle as he delighted in explaining the true story behind how these moments unfolded. And we hope every of us can discover a new approach to act or converse up with Bill’s uncompromising, dignified and at all times constructive dedication to precept. That can be one final, and lasting, win for our beloved #6. “

Over a 15-year interval, starting together with his junior 12 months at the University of San Francisco, Russell had essentially the most outstanding profession of any participant within the historical past of group sports activities. At USF, he was a two-time All-American, gained two straight NCAA championships and led the group to 55 consecutive wins. And he gained a gold medal at the 1956 Olympics.

During his 13 years in Boston, he carried the Celtics to the NBA Finals 12 instances, successful the championship 11 instances, the final two titles whereas he was additionally serving because the NBA’s first Black coach.

“Bill Russell’s DNA is woven via each factor of the Celtics group, from the relentless pursuit of excellence, to the celebration of group rewards over particular person glory, to a dedication to social justice and civil rights off the court docket. Our ideas are together with his household as we mourn his passing and rejoice his huge legacy in basketball, Boston, and past,” the Celtics mentioned in an announcement.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver known as Russell “the best champion in all of group sports activities” in an announcement Sunday.

“I cherished my friendship with Bill and was thrilled when he obtained the Presidential Medal of Freedom. I usually known as him basketball’s Babe Ruth for the way he transcended time. Bill was the last word winner and consummate teammate, and his affect on the NBA shall be felt eternally,” Silver mentioned.

A five-time MVP and 12-time All-Star, Russell was an uncanny shot-blocker who revolutionized NBA defensive ideas. He completed with 21,620 profession rebounds — a mean of twenty-two.5 per sport — and led the league in rebounding 4 instances. He had 51 rebounds in a single sport and 49 in two others and posted 12 straight seasons with 1,000 or extra rebounds. Russell additionally averaged 15.1 factors and 4.3 assists per sport over his profession.

Until Michael Jordan’s exploits within the Nineteen Nineties, Russell was thought-about by many as the best participant in NBA historical past.

“Bill Russell was a pioneer — as a participant, as a champion, because the NBA’s first Black head coach and as an activist. He paved the best way and set an instance for each Black participant who got here into the league after him, together with me . The world has misplaced a legend. My condolences to his household and should he relaxation in peace,” Jordan, now the chairman of the Charlotte Hornets, mentioned in an announcement.

Russell was awarded the Medal of Freedom by former President Barack Obama in 2011, the nation’s highest civilian honor. And in 2017, the NBA awarded him with its Lifetime Achievement Award.

William Felton Russell was born Feb. 12, 1934, in Monroe, Louisiana. His household moved to the Bay Area, the place he attended McClymonds High School in Oakland. He was an ungainly, unremarkable middle on McClymonds’ basketball group, however his dimension earned him a scholarship at San Francisco, the place he blossomed.

“I used to be an innovator,” Russell informed The New York Times in 2011. “I began blocking photographs though I had by no means seen photographs blocked earlier than that. The first time I did that in a sport, my coach known as timeout and mentioned, ‘No good defensive participant ever leaves his ft.'”

Russell did it anyway, and he teamed with guard KC Jones to guide the Dons to 55 straight wins and nationwide titles in 1955 and 1956. (Jones missed 4 video games of the 1956 match as a result of his eligibility had expired.) Russell was named to the NCAA match Most Outstanding Player in 1955. He then led the US basketball group to victory within the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia.

With the 1956 NBA draft approaching, Celtics coach and normal supervisor Red Auerbach was keen so as to add Russell to his lineup. Auerbach had constructed a high-scoring offensive machine round guards Bob Cousy and Bill Sharman and undersized middle Ed Macauley however thought the Celtics lacked the protection and rebounding wanted to rework them right into a championship-caliber membership. Russell, Auerbach felt, was the lacking piece to the puzzle.

After the St. Louis Hawks chosen Russell within the draft, Auerbach engineered a commerce to land Russell for Ed Macauley.

Boston’s beginning 5 of Russell, Tommy Heinsohn, Cousy, Sharman and Jim Loscutoff was a high-octane unit. The Celtics posted the perfect regular-season document within the NBA in 1956-57 and waltzed via the playoffs for his or her first NBA title, beating the Hawks.

In a rematch within the 1958 Finals, the Celtics and Hawks cut up the primary two video games at Boston Garden. But Russell suffered an ankle damage in Game 3 and was ineffective the rest of the collection. The Hawks finally gained the collection in six video games.

Russell and the Celtics had a stranglehold on the NBA Finals after that, happening to win 10 titles in 11 years and giving skilled basketball a stage of status it had not loved earlier than.

In the method, Russell revolutionized the sport. He was a 6-foot-9 middle whose lightning reflexes introduced shot-blocking and different defensive maneuvers that set off a fast-break offense into full growth.

In 1966, after eight straight titles, Auerbach retired as coach and named Russell as his successor. It was hailed as a sociological advance, since Russell was the primary Black coach of a significant league group in any sport, not to mention a group so distinguished. But neither Russell nor Auerbach noticed the transfer that manner. They felt it was merely one of the best ways to maintain successful, and as a player-coach, Russell gained two extra titles over the following three years.

Their largest opponent was age. After he gained his eleventh championship in 1969 at age 35, Russell retired, triggering a mini-rebuild. During his 13 seasons, the NBA had expanded from eight groups to 14. Russell’s Celtics groups by no means needed to survive greater than three playoff rounds to win a title.

“If Bill Russell got here again at this time with the identical tools and the identical brainpower, the identical individual precisely as he was when he landed within the NBA in 1956, he’d be the perfect rebounder within the league,” Bob Ryan, a former Celtics beat author for The Boston Globe, informed the San Francisco Chronicle in 2019. “As an athlete, he was thus far forward of his time. He’d win three, 4 or 5 championships, however not 11 in 13 years, clearly.”

Along with a number of titles, Russell’s profession was additionally partly outlined by his rivalry towards Wilt Chamberlain.

In the 1959-60 season, the 7-foot-1 Chamberlain, who averaged a document 37.6 factors per sport in his rookie 12 months, made his debut with the Philadelphia Warriors. On Nov. 7, 1959, Russell’s Celtics hosted Chamberlain’s Warriors, and pundits known as the matchup between the perfect offensive and defensive facilities “The Big Collision” and “Battle of the Titans.” While Chamberlain outscored Russell 30-22, the Celtics gained 115-106, and the sport was known as a “new starting of basketball.”

The matchup between Russell and Chamberlain grew to become one among basketball’s biggest rivalries. One of the Celtics’ titles got here towards Chamberlain’s San Francisco’s Warriors groups in 1964.

Although Chamberlain outrebounded and outscored Russell over the course of their 142 profession head-to-head video games (28.7 rebounds per sport to 23.7, 28.7 factors per sport to 14.5) and their total careers (22.9 RPG to 22.5, 30.1 PPG to fifteen.1), Russell often bought the nod as the higher general participant, primarily as a result of his groups gained 87 (61%) of these video games.

In the eight playoff collection between the 2 gamers, Russell and the Celtics gained seven. Russell has 11 championship rings; Chamberlain has simply two.

“I used to be the villain as a result of I used to be a lot greater and stronger than anybody else on the market,” Chamberlain informed the Boston Herald in 1995. “People have a tendency to not root for Goliath, and Bill again then was a jovial man and he actually had a great giggle. Plus, he performed on the best group ever.

“My group was dropping and his was successful, so it will be pure that I might be jealous. Not true. I’m very happy with the best way issues turned out. He was general by far the perfect, and that solely helped convey out the perfect in me.”

After Russell retired from basketball, his place in its historical past safe, he moved into broader spheres, internet hosting radio and tv discuss exhibits and writing newspaper columns on normal subjects.

In 1973, Russell took over the Seattle TremendousSonics, then a 6-year-old enlargement franchise that had by no means made the playoffs, as coach and normal supervisor. The 12 months earlier than, the Sonics had gained 26 video games and bought 350 season tickets. Under Russell, they gained 36, 43, 43 and 40 video games, making the playoffs twice. When he resigned, that they had a stable base of 5,000 season tickets and a group that reached the NBA Finals the following two years.

Russell reportedly grew to become annoyed over the gamers’ reluctance to embrace his group idea. Some prompt that the issue was Russell himself; he was mentioned to be aloof, moody and unable to simply accept something however the Celtics’ custom. Ironically, Lenny Wilkens guided Seattle to a championship two years later, preaching the identical group idea that Russell had tried to instill unsuccessfully.

A decade after he left Seattle, Russell gave teaching one other attempt, changing Jerry Reynolds as coach of the Sacramento Kings early within the 1987-88 season. The group staggered to a 17-41 document, and Russell left midseason.

Between teaching stints, Russell was most seen as a coloration commentator on televised basketball video games. For a time he was paired with the equally blunt Rick Barry, and the duo offered brutally frank commentary on the sport. Russell was by no means comfy in that setting, although, explaining to the Sacramento Bee, “The most profitable tv is completed in eight-second ideas, and the issues I learn about basketball, motivation and other people go deeper than that.”

He additionally dabbled with appearing, performing in a Seattle Children’s Theater present and an episode of “Miami Vice,” and he wrote a provocative autobiography, “Second Wind.”

Russell grew to become the primary Black participant to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975, and in 1980 he was voted Greatest Player within the History of the NBA by the Professional Basketball Writers Association of America. He was a part of the seventy fifth Anniversary Team introduced by the NBA in October 2021.

In 2013, Boston honored Russell with a statue at City Hall Plaza.

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