(News4usonline) – What is there to know that you may not know already about the great Bill Russell? Russell was more than a stat machine during his playing career. He was a no-brainer Hall of Famer. It’s pretty awesome to know that Russell entered the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and as a coach. That’s good stuff.
Here’s some more greatness. Twice in his career, Russell averaged more than 24 rebounds in a season. He won 11 NBA titles. That’s five more than what Michael Jordan was able to achieve in his fabulous career. So, who is the G.O.A.T (Greatest of All-Time)? Russell deserves to be in the conversation. But there is so much that Russell did and contributed to society other than dribbling a basketball.
“The impact Russell have had on the game of basketball and the NBA is simply immeasurable,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in a released statement.
“Bill Russell was the greatest champion in all of team sports. The countless accolades that he earned for his storied career with the Boston Celtics – including a record 11 championships and five MVP awards – only begin to tell the story of Bill’s immense impact on our league and broader society.”
Silver continued, “Bill stood for something much bigger than sports: the values of equality, respect and inclusion that he stamped into the DNA of our league. At the height of his athletic career, Bill advocated vigorously for civil rights and social justice, a legacy he passed down to generations of NBA players who followed in his footsteps. Through the taunts, threats and unthinkable adversity, Bill rose above it all and remained true to his belief that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity.”
Take Russell away from Boston, and the Celtics don’t win as many championship rings as they did. And that’s real talk. Who else would have been able to stop Wilt Chamberlain in the paint? That Boston dynasty would not have developed without the presence of Russell.
Russell was a five-time league MVP for his play during the regular season. Russell was also selected as an NBA All-Star 12 times. Numbers, however, don’t begin to tell half of the story about Russell and his legacy. What Russell achieved in his life goes well beyond battling the Lakers or rejecting a shooter’s failed attempt at making a basket.
Russell towered over the rest of the competition on NBA courts. However, he would make his biggest imprint off the court. Russell wasn’t about playing the game of basketball, a sport that he undoubtedly loved. He had more love for his fellow man. And he showed that throughout the 88 years he lived, even when he hung up his sneakers for good.
Russell played 13 seasons in the NBA. He was an NBA champion in 11 of those seasons. There will probably never be another athlete who reaches that level of success the way that Russell did. He was certainly one of a kind. Like the iconic Jackie Robinson before him, Russell broke down racist and discrimination barriers, as the era in which he played demanded leadership in just about all sectors of society.
In a released statement, the Celtics paid homage to Russell as the heartbeat and pulse of the organization.
“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,” a statement released by the Celtics said.
“Bill was a champion unlike any other in the history of team sports – an 11-time NBA champion, including winning eight consecutive titles, a five-time MVP, an Olympic Gold Medalist and the NBA’s first Black head coach,” the statement continued. “Bill Russell‘s DNA is woven through every element of the Celtics organization, from the relentless pursuit of excellence, to the celebration of team rewards over individual glory, to a commitment to social justice and civil rights off the court.”
Growing up, hearing the name Bill Russell was like hearing Muhammad Ali or Jim Brown or Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Black titans in the world of sports as well as frontline soldiers on the battlefront of the Civil Rights Movement.
Like Brown, Abdul Jabbar, and so many other Black sports figures, were unafraid to stand up to the wiles of racism and bigotry back in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, Russell was firm in standing his ground for equal treatment.
The Civil Rights Movement was buoyed by great activists like Medgar Evers, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, Adam Clayton Powell, James Baldwin, and Fannie Lou Hamer, to name just a few. But Black athletes like Russell helped push the agenda of the Civil Rights Movement due to their popularity resulting from their play in their respective fields.
What Russell committed to the cause is not lost on the National Civil Rights Museum, an entity that reflected on the good works of the former NBA star.
“Following baseball legend Jackie Robinson’s example, Bill Russell believed it was his responsibility as a celebrity to use his platform to stand up for positive social change,” the National Civil Rights Museum said in a released statement. “Bill Russell was an outspoken advocate for civil rights. He was one of the first celebrities to proudly call himself “Black,” when “Negro” was still the accepted and polite term. At least twice, he refused to play a scheduled game when his black teammates were given inferior accommodations.”
Featured Image Caption: President Barack Obama is greeted by Bill Russell during a stop to view the statue of Russell at City Hall Plaza in Boston, Mass., Oct. 30, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)/Obama White House Archive