11-time NBA champion Bill Russell dies at 88

11-time NBA champion Bill Russell dies at 88. 

Bill Russell, a Boston Celtics hero and regarded as one of the all-time great basketball players, passed away on Sunday. Russell led the Boston Celtics to a record 11 titles. He was 88.

In a statement announcing his passing, Russell’s family said he passed away peacefully with his wife, Jeannine. The family did not give the reason for death.

Throughout his 13-year career, the 6’10” former center dominated the NBA as a defensive and rebounding juggernaut. From 1956 to 1969, he was a 12-time all-star and won five Most Valuable Player honors. 

In addition to guiding the club to two more championships on top of the nine, he won as a player. 

He also served as the Celtics’ head coach for the last three years of his playing career. He was the league’s first Black head coach.

Russell “stood for something far broader than sports: the principles of equality, respect, and inclusiveness that he imprinted into the DNA of our league,” according to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

Silver said Sunday, “We were fortunate to see Bill at every major NBA event.

It includes the NBA Finals, where he presented the Bill Russell Trophy to the Finals MVP for over 35 years since Bill finished his pioneering career as the league’s first Black head coach. 

Bill was the quintessential team player and winner, and his impact on the NBA will last forever.

The lengthy history of Russell’s engagement and commitment to social justice was also cited by his family, who said that his “knowledge of the battle is what lighted his life.”

The statement from the family said, “Bill spoke out injustice with an unyielding honesty that he believed would disturb the current quo, and with a strong example that, while never his modest aim, will eternally inspire cooperation, altruism, and conscious change. 

“Perhaps you’ll remember his distinctive chuckle as he enjoyed telling the accurate tale behind how those times played out, or you’ll recollect one or two of the shining moments he provided us. And we hope that in light of Bill’s unwavering, honorable, and consistently positive devotion to principle, each of us might discover a new way to act or speak out. That would be our beloved #6’s last and final victory.

Basketball writers selected Bill Russell as the best player in NBA history in 1980. He continues to be the sport’s most successful player and an example of selflessness. 

He won by defending and regaining the ball while letting others score. Frequently, Wilt Chamberlain was the only athlete at the time with who Russell could compete.

Russell, though, outperformed the competition 11 to 2 in the one statistic that mattered to him.