Bill Russell

Bill Russell, 11-time NBA champion and first black coach, dies at 88

Bill Russell, who won a record 11 NBA championship titles during his 13-year career with the Boston Celtics and went on to become the league’s first black head coach, died Sunday at the 88 years old.

Main facts

  • Bill Russell died with his wife Jeannine by his side, his family said in a statement on Twitter, but they did not share the cause of death.
  • Bill Russell started playing for the Boston Celtics in 1956, and by the time he retired from the pros in 1969 he had won the NBA championship 11 times – a record that remains unbroken – and had been named the league’s best player five times.
  • Throughout his career, he was a strong advocate for civil rights and social justice, which often brought him into conflict with Boston sports fans.
  • He was the head coach of the Celtics for the last three years of his career and won two championships, before coaching the Seattle SuperSonics and the Sacramento Kings.
  • In 2011, President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
  • NBA commissioner Adam Silver called Bill Russell “the greatest champion of all team sports” in a statement on Sunday, adding that Bill Russell represented “something much bigger than sports” and that helped embed the values ​​of equality, respect and inclusion “into the DNA of our league”.

The context

Bill Russell was born in West Monroe, Louisiana in 1934, at a time when the South was still largely racially segregated. The racism he and his family faced as a child helped influence his attitudes as an adult, and Bill Russell spoke out throughout his career about the racism he and other black basketball players faced. In 1961, after his Celtics teammates Sam Jones and Satch Sanders were refused service at a cafe in Lexington, Kentucky, because they were black, Bill Russell joined them and several of their black teammates to boycott a scheduled friendly game against the St. Louis Hawks and returned to Boston in protest.

Article translated from Forbes US – Author: Carlie Porterfield

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