Bill Russell, 11-Time NBA Champion, Dead at 88

by Patrick Norton

The legendary Bill Russell passed away on Sunday, July 31. In a statement posted to Russell’s Twitter page, the most decorated basketball artist of all time died peacefully on Sunday morning. By his side was his wife Jeannine.

The most prolific center in NBA history, Russell reached glory 11 times with the Boston Celtics. By the end of his playing career, Russell turned toward the coaching side of the game. His final two championships with Boston came as player and head coach.

The league inducted Russell into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 1975. For his civil rights activism and leadership, Russell received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2011. The NBA recognized the legend again in 2019 with the NBA Lifetime Achievement Award for his efforts as one of the greatest game ambassadors of all-time. Bill Russell turned 88 years-old in February.

Bill Russell’s Achievements Surpass 11 Championships

On the court, Russell dominated the league throughout his playing career. Playing his entire career with the Celtics, the center left every ounce on the Boston Garden floor. Winning five MVP trophies, Russell failed to reach the pinnacle of the sport just twice in 13 seasons. The league did not introduce a Finals’ MVP until Russell’s final campaign in 1969. Unsurprisingly, the icon took home the award.

Additionally, the NBA renamed the trophy in 2009 to reflect the first winner, recognizing it as the Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP Award. Furthermore, the Naismith Hall of Fame honored Russell again in 2021 for his coaching efforts with the Celtics, Seattle Supersonics and Sacramento Kings.

However, his humanitarian work and activism for civil rights always defined Russell’s prominent character. Winning championships brought fame and fortune, but the icon still endured hardship from racist fans in Boston and other towns. The difficulties caused a divide between Russell and fans, ultimately healing through passing time.

But his efforts in movements and abundant success on the court encouraged NCAA’s West Coast Conference to incorporate the “Russell Rule”. Similar to the NFL’s Rooney Rule, the clause asks schools to interview a large diversity of coaching candidates. Russell attended the WCC’s University of San Francisco, winning two NCAA championships.

Bill Russell’s passing reminds us that legends never truly die. The basketball world undoubtedly carries Russell’s legacy now and forever.