Bill Russell, the leader of the NBA’s most dominant dynasty, died on Sunday at 88 years old.
Between 1957 and 1969, Russell led the Boston Celtics to 11 world championships in 12 seasons, including a streak of eight Finals victories in a row.
“Russ revolutionized basketball and he was the man who made us go,” Russell’s teammate, point guard Bob Cousy, said of the Hall of Fame center, according to The Boston Globe.
“Without him, we wouldn’t have won a championship.”
The family of Russell shared the news of his death in the form of a tweet on his official Twitter profile on Sunday.
An announcement… pic.twitter.com/KMJ7pG4R5Z
— TheBillRussell (@RealBillRussell) July 31, 2022
According to the announcement, Russell “passed away peacefully” with his wife, Jeannine, by his side.
Along with the long list of prolific on-the-court accomplishments, Russell’s family also acknowledged his many off-the-court accomplishments.
Playing in Boston in the late 1950s and early ’60s, Russell dealt with his share of discrimination but persevered nonetheless.
According to the Globe, during Russell’s time with the Celtics, his home was “vandalized by intruders who destroyed his trophies, painted racial slurs on the walls and defecated in the beds.”
Despite all of this, Russell never shied away from addressing social issues and his Celtics teams served as a shining example of racial progress and reconciliation.
Russell’s grandfather, Jake, described his visit to the Celtics locker room one day and “marveled” at the fact that a white man, Celtics forward John Havlicek, and a black man, Celtics guard Sam Jones, were sharing a shower together.
“I never thought I’d live to see the day when the water would run off a white man onto a black man and the water would run off a black man onto a white man,” Jake said of the scene, according to the Globe.
The Celtics were the first team to draft a black player in the 1950s, was the first to start five black players in the 1960s and later became the first to have a black coach — Bill Russell himself.
“Bill’s wife, Jeannine, and his many friends and family thank you for keeping Bill in your prayers. Perhaps you’ll relive one or two of the golden moments he gave us, or recall his trademark laugh as he delighted in explaining the real story behind how those moments unfolded,” Russell’s family wrote in their statement.
“And we hope each of us can find new ways to act or speak up with Bill’s uncompromising, dignified and always constructive commitment to principle.”
“That would be one last, and lasting, win for our beloved #6.”
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