Bill Russell, an 11-time NBA champion as the heart and soul of the Boston Celtics dynasty of the 1950s and ’60s, died on Sunday. Russell, who also became a leading voice for social justice, was 88 years old.
“Bill Russell was the greatest champion in all of team sports,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “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.”
The statement from Silver continues:
Bill stood for something much bigger than sports: the values of equality, respect and inclusion that he stamped into the DNA of our league. 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. 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.
For nearly 35 years since Bill completed his trailblazing career as the league’s first Black head coach, we were fortunate to see him at every major NBA event, including the NBA Finals, where he presented the Bill Russell Trophy to the Finals MVP.
I cherished my friendship with Bill and was thrilled when he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. I often called him basketball’s Babe Ruth for how he transcended time. Bill was the ultimate winner and consummate teammate, and his influence on the NBA will be felt forever. We send our deepest condolences to his wife, Jeannine, his family and his many friends.
Additional information on Russell’s life is available at usatoday.com.
Like each team around the league, the Houston Rockets have many players and representatives who came to know and/or appreciate Russell over the years. Here’s a sampling of their reactions on social media.
Story originally appeared on Rockets Wire