Bill Russell, a Pro Basketball Hall of Famer, Boston Celtics legend, and icon of American sports, has died at the age of 88. His death was announced in a statement on social media.
Russell was beloved by NBA players, and his championship legacy towers over the sport. The NBA Finals MVP award is named after Russell.
“If I had a choice of any basketball player in the league,” former Lakers guard, and NBA executive, Jerry West said after losing to the Celtics in the 1968 Finals, “my No.1 choice has to be Bill Russell. Bill Russell never ceases to amaze me.” The city’s mayor, Michelle Wu, and the Red Sox paid tribute.
To be the greatest champion in your sport, to revolutionize the way the game is played, and to be a societal leader all at once seems unthinkable, but that is who Bill Russell was. (1/4) pic.twitter.com/K0Ue0hKiLs
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) July 31, 2022
Bill Russell gave so much to the city of Boston—as the greatest sports champion of all time & a role model fighting for justice, equality & labor rights.
We owe him a debt of gratitude & we will miss him.
— Michelle Wu 吳弭 (@wutrain) July 31, 2022
Fenway Park honors Bill Russell with a moment of silence. pic.twitter.com/QtlvdIt70m
— WEEI Red Sox Network (@SoxBooth) July 31, 2022
A statement from Hornets Chairman Michael Jordan on the passing of NBA legend Bill Russell. pic.twitter.com/RdYcnuCrmb
— Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) July 31, 2022
Legends are forever.
RIP Bill Russell, truly a titan of our game. pic.twitter.com/EKpLABwzmT
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) July 31, 2022
Russell led the Celtics back to titles in 1968 and ’69, each time winning seven-game playoff series against Chamberlain. Russell retired after the ’69 finals, returning for a relatively successful — but unfulfilling — four-year stint as coach and GM of the Seattle SuperSonics and a less fruitful half season as coach of the Sacramento Kings.
Russell’s No. 6 jersey was retired by the Celtics in 1972. He earned spots on the NBA’s 25th anniversary all-time team in 1970, 35th anniversary team in 1980 and 75th anniversary team. In 1996, he was hailed as one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players. In 2009, the MVP trophy of the NBA Finals was named in his honor — even though Russell never won himself, because it wasn’t awarded for the first time until 1969.
In 2013, a statue was unveiled on Boston’s City Hall Plaza of Russell surrounded by blocks of granite with quotes on leadership and character. Russell was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975 but did not attend the ceremony, saying he should not have been the first African American elected. (Chuck Cooper, the NBA’s first Black player, was his choice.)