“Bill Russell: Legend” tells the remarkable life and legacy of an NBA superstar and civil rights icon. Made in collaboration with Russell’s estate, this two-part film from award-winning director Sam Pollard (MLK/FBI, Lowndes County and the Road to Black Power) features one of Russell’s final interviews before his passing in 2022, as well as interviews with Steph Curry, Chris Paul, “Magic” Johnson, Larry Bird, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and more.

Off the court Russell was a force in the fight for human rights — marching with Martin Luther King Jr., leading boycotts in the NBA, over racist practices, and speaking out against segregation — efforts which earned him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In the clip below (posted on Netflix’s Strong Black Lead IG and Twitter), Russell shares why he chose not to go on stage with Martin Luther King Jr. at 1963’s March on Washington. 

Russell will be remembered as a tremendous rebounder, legendary post defender and NBA superstar. But more than anything he will be remembered as the greatest winner in basketball history.

The Boston Celtics legend, who won 11 NBA championships as a player, including two as a player-coach, died at the age of 88 on July 31 last year.

NBA’s First Black Head Coach

Russell also made history as the NBA’s first Black head coach.


He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975 — the first Black player to be so honored — but he declined to attend the ceremony. He wouldn’t accept his ring until a private ceremony in 2019. He announced on Twitter he had finally accepted the honor, saying he didn’t deserve to be the first Black player to go into the Hall of Fame.

The Celtics retired his No. 6 jersey in 1972 — an event he also did not attend due to a stormy history with Boston media and the city’s racist past. He did later attend a ceremony in 1999 “re-retiring” his jersey.

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