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The Life & Times of Basket Ball great Bill Russell
sokapro-The Life & Times of Basket Ball great Bill Russell

Celtics great Bill Russell, 11-time NBA champion, dead at 88. He passed away peacefully with his wife seated by his side.

On July 31st former National Basketball Association (NBA)star breathed his last at the age of 88. Bill Russel is one of the sports world's greatest winners with 11 NBA championships to his name. He passed away peacefully with his wife Jeannine by his side, according to a statement posted on his Twitter account that did not state a cause of death. He was a five-time Most Valuable Player (MVP) winner and he was very outspoken on racial issues. In a statement, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said, "Bill Russell was the greatest champion in all of team sports. The countless accolades that he earned for his storied career with the Boston Celtics – including a record 11 championships and five MVP awards – only begin to tell the story of Bill's immense impact on our league and broader society.” 

Russel became a basketball superstar in the 1950s and 60s because of his dominating rebounding and intense defensive play that reshaped the game. He also had  “a neurotic need to win” according to teammate Tom Heinsohn. In the 13 years he spent with Boston Celtic, the club won 13 NBA titles from 1956 to 1969. The Celtics said; "To be the greatest champion in your sport, to revolutionize the way the game is played, and to be a societal leader all at once seems unthinkable, but that is who Bill Russell is was. Bill Russell's DNA is woven through every element of the Celtics organization, from the relentless pursuit of excellence to the celebration of team rewards over individual glory, to a commitment to social justice and civil rights off the court. Our thoughts are with his family as we mourn his passing and celebrate his enormous legacy in basketball, Boston, and beyond." 

The club was rich in talent during his playing time at the Boston Celtic. Heinsohn, Bob Cousy, Frank Ramsey, Bill Sharman, Tom "Satch" Sanders, John Havlicek, Don Nelson, Sam Jones, and K.C. Jones, his old college teammate, would all join him in the Basketball Hall of Fame, as would their coach, Red Auerbach. But what set Russel apart was his rebounding and defense, especially his shot-blocking. He would leap to block opponents' shots at a time when the prevailing defensive philosophy was that players generally should not leave their feet. "Russell defended the way Picasso painted, the way Hemingway wrote," Aram Goudsouzian said in his book "King of the Court: Bill Russell and the Basketball Revolution." With time, he managed to change how individuals understood the graft of the game and shifted the game from staying close to the floor all the time. In his career, he averaged 15.1 points and 22.5 rebounds per game. He was a 12-time All-Star and won the NBA MVP in the years of 1958, 1961, 1962, 1963, and 1965. Despite all those individual honors, he still viewed the team as a sacred concept. "For me, it didn't make any difference who did what as long as we got it done," Russell said.

He was an opinionated and complicated individual off the basketball court. He refused to sign autographs, saying he preferred to have conversations. He was exceedingly gracious with teammates and opponents but hostile towards the media and indifferent to fans. Leaving in Boston, a city with racial hate strife, he often criticized it. He was also one of the sports world's leading civil rights activists in the 1950s and '60s. When Martin Luther King delivered his  "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963 in Washington,  Russel was on the front row. Bill stood for something much bigger than sports: the values of equality, respect, and inclusion that he stamped into the DNA of our league," said Silver. “At the height of his athletic career, Bill advocated vigorously for civil rights and social justice, a legacy he passed down to generations of NBA players who followed in his footsteps,” added Silver. Silver concluded by saying; “Through the taunts, threats, and unthinkable adversity, Bill rose above it all and remained true to his belief that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity.”