Bill Russell dead: Boston Celtics legend, first black NBA coach was 88

Bill Russell, a Boston Celtics legend who won 11 championships during his career and served as the first black head coach of a US professional sports team, died Sunday. He was 88 years old.

Russell’s death was confirmed through his official social media accounts, sharing that the NBA legend passed away peacefully with his wife Jeannine by his side.

“We hope that with Bill’s uncompromising, dignified and always constructive commitment to principle, each of us can find a new way to act or speak out,” the statement said, which was shared on Russell’s account. “It would be a final and lasting victory for our beloved number 6.”

Described by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver as “the greatest champion of all team sports,” Russell brought 11 championships to the Boston Celtics during his 13-year tenure with the team. He was a five-time MVP winner and a 12-time All-Star. Many argue that Russell is the most influential defensive player in league history.

Born William Felton Russell on February 12, 1934 in Monroe, Louisiana, Russell moved to the Bay Area with his family, thrived as a high school athlete in Oakland before attending the University of San Francisco and his impressive rise in professional basketball started.

Russell led the Dons to back-to-back NCAA championships in 1955 and 1956. He also helped the United States win gold at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia.

After the St. Louis Hawks selected Russell in the 1956 NBA draft, Celtics boss Red Auerbach organized a trade to win the elite center. The two teams faced each other in the 1957 NBA Finals, which Boston emerged victorious and began an eight-year streak of consecutive championships for the organization. Russell was the cornerstone of the sports dynasty.

In 1966 Auerbach resigned as coach. Russell was named to succeed him, becoming the first black coach in US major league sport history. As a player-coach, Russell led the Celtics to two more titles before retiring as a player in 1969 at the age of 35.

There’s more to come… Bill Russell dead: Boston Celtics legend, first black NBA coach was 88

Charles Jones

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