NBA legend, Bill Russell, lynchpin of the Boston Celtics who won 11 total titles and eight consecutive championships, passed away at age 88. According to a eulogy shared on the basketball star’s Twitter page, Russell passed away “peacefully” with his wife, Jeannine, at his side. According to the tweet, plans for his memorial ceremony will be revealed soon. The reason of death was not stated in the tweet. Russell was also unable to deliver the NBA Finals MVP trophy in June due to an illness.
The eulogy highlighted the life of the NBA Hall of Famer. Bill Russell was “at the helm for two NBA championships as the first black head coach of any North American professional sports team,” the tweet said. “In 2009, the award for the NBA Finals most valuable player was renamed … as the ‘Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award.’” Apart from the accolades in the court, he was also known for his activism. “From boycotting a 1961 exhibition game to unmask too-long-tolerated discrimination, to leading Mississippi’s first integrated basketball camp in the combustible wake of Medgar Evans’ assassination, to decades of activism ultimately recognized by his receipt of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010, Bill called out injustice with an unforgiving candor that he intended would disrupt the status quo, and with a powerful example that, though never his humble intention, will forever inspire teamwork, selflessness and thoughtful change,” the eulogy continued.
Russell, a 12-time All-Star and five-time MVP, had a remarkable shot-blocking ability that completely altered NBA defensive tactics. He concluded his career with 21,620 rebounds — or 22.5 per game — and recorded 12 seasons with 1,000 or more rebounds. Over the course of his career, he also averaged 4.3 assists and 15.1 points a game.
Bill Russell was widely regarded as the greatest NBA player up until Michael Jordan’s rise in the 1990s. In 1975, Russell became the first Black player to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. In 1980, the Professional Basketball Writers Association of America named Russell the greatest player in NBA history, according to ESPN.
Michael Jordan was once quoted for saying “I Won 6 Championships. Bill Russell Won 11. Does That Make Bill Russell Better Than Me? Or Make Me Better Than Him? No. Because We Played in Different Eras,” said Jordan in an interview on Cigar Aficionado.
Russell played in the NBA when the league was way smaller, and thus the competition was way less strenuous compared to Jordan’s era in the NBA.
Whereas Michael Jordan was a more undersized player during his career, and he had to play against players much bigger than him. So he had a much more arduous road and wasn’t able to dominate from the get-go like Russell was. Regardless of the comparisons, there is no denying the impact Bill Russell have had on the NBA.