Photo credits: Dan Goshtigian/The Boston Globe
Bill Russell, a lynchpin of the Boston Celtics juggernaut that won 11 titles total and eight consecutive championships in the 20th century, passed away on Sunday, July 31, 2022. The Hall of Famer succumbed at 88 years of age, ESPN reported.
According to a message shared on social media, Russell passed away “peacefully” with his wife, Jeannine loyally beside him until the end. According to the announcement, plans for his burial ceremony could be revealed shortly.
Russell had the most amazing career of any athlete in the annals of team sports, spanning a period of 15 years beginning with his junior year at the University of San Francisco. He was a two-time All-American at USF, where he helped the team to 55 straight victories and two consecutive NCAA titles. At the 1956 Olympics, he took home a gold medal.
Russell was a brilliant shot blocker who changed the NBA’s techniques on defense. He was a five-time MVP and a 12-time All-Star. He concluded his career with 21,620 rebounds, or 22.5 per game, and four times had the most rebounds in the league. He recorded 12 seasons with 1,000 or more rebounds, including games with 51 and 49 rebounds. Over the course of his career, Russell also averaged 4.3 assists and 15.1 points a game.
Russell had been widely regarded as the greatest NBA baller of all time – up till Michael Jordan’s heroics in the 1990s.
Red Auerbach, the head coach of the Boston Celtics, retired in 1966 after eight straight championships and selected Russell as his replacement. Considering Russell was the first Black coach of a major league team in any sport, much less such a prestigious franchise, his appointment was hailed as a revolutionary breakthrough. Russell and Auerbach, however, did not perceive the maneuver in that way. They thought it was the greatest way to continue trying to win. Russell went on to win two more championships over the following three years while serving as a player-coach.
In 1975, Russell became the first Black basketball player to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. In 1980, the Professional Basketball Writers Association of America named Russell the greatest player in NBA history. He got included as a member of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team, which was unveiled in October 2021.
The city of Boston, Massachusetts dedicated a statue honoring Russell at City Hall Plaza in 2013.