NBA.  Obama, Biden, Jordan… Tributes multiply after the death of Bill Russell

NBA. Obama, Biden, Jordan… Tributes multiply after the death of Bill Russell

He was for his family “the most prolific winner in American sports history” and for former President Barack Obama ” a giant “ : Bill Russell, crowned eleven-time NBA champion with the Celtics and civil rights defender, died on Sunday.

“Bill Russell, the most prolific winner in American sports history, died peacefully today at the age of 88, with his wife Jeannine at his bedside”announced his family on the Twitter account of the former player.

The NBA and more broadly American sport has lost one of its legends, also recognizable by his deep laugh. His record is impressive and will probably never be equaled: in thirteen seasons in the NBA, all under the green jersey of the Boston Celtics, Russell won eleven league titles, a record that still stands, including eight in a row from 1959 to 1966.

Although he ended his career with a very respectable average of 15.1 points per game, Russell made a name for himself thanks to his defense: from the height of his 208 cm, he was intractable and disgusted his opponents with its cons. He was also the first black American appointed to lead an American professional sports franchise and the first to be crowned, in his second year (1967), at the head of “his” Celtics.

“A pioneer of civil rights”

It is also outside the basketball courts that Russell has become a figure in American society, which earned him in 2011 from the hands of Barack Obama the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest American civilian honor.

“Today we lost a giant”reacted to the announcement of his death the former American president. “On the court, he was the greatest champion in basketball history. Off the pitch, he was a civil rights pioneer, marching with Dr (Martin Luther) King and standing alongside Muhammad Ali. » “For decades Bill endured name-calling and harassment, but that never stopped him from standing up for what was right. I learned so much from his way of playing, his way of coaching and his way of living his life.added Barack Obama.

“America’s promise is that we are all created equal and deserve to be treated the same throughout our lives. We never fully delivered on that promise, but Bill Russell made sure we never let it go.”also greeted current President Joe Biden, in a press release.

Born in 1934 in Louisiana, in a Deep South still living under a regime of racial discrimination, before moving with his family to California in the 1940s, Russell used his notoriety to advance the cause of civil rights. In 1963, he participated in Martin Luther King’s March on Washington.

“The greatest champion of all team sports”

“From his childhood in segregated Louisiana to his career in the biggest sports halls, during the height of the civil rights movement, Bill was confronted with racist hostility and hatred, rooted in all aspects of American life. Yet he never gave up. Throughout his life, he forced us to face hard truths”underlined Joe Biden.

Upon the announcement of his death, the NBA paid tribute to the “greatest champion of all team sports”.

“Bill stood for something much bigger than sport: the values ​​of equality, respect and inclusion that he inscribed in our league’s DNA”NBA boss Adam Silver said in a statement.

“At the peak of his athletic career, Bill was a strong advocate for civil rights and social justice, a legacy he passed on to generations of NBA players who followed in his footsteps”added Adam Silver.

” A pioneer “

Current Celtics players also paid tribute to him. “You changed not only the league but the world”tweeted Grant Williams, while Jaylen Brown posted a message thanking Bill Russell “for leading the way and inspiring so many people. »

“Bill Russell was my idol”reacted for his part the former leader of the Los Angeles Lakers Magic Johnson. “He was one of the first sportsmen to fight on the front lines for social justice, fairness, equality and civil rights. »

Star Michael Jordan paid tribute to him at a “pioneer”who “paved the way and set an example for all black players who entered the league after him, including me”.

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“The world lost a legend with the passing of Bill Russell. His impact on basketball and society will not be forgotten.”greeted Patrick Ewing, former pivot of the New York Knicks.

While the date of his funeral has not yet been set, his family hoped that “Each of us finds ways to speak and act Bill’s way, without compromise, with dignity and an always constructive approach”

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