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NBA legend Bill Russell passes away at 88

Vincent Frank
Bill Russell
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Former Boston Celtics star Bill Russell is considered one of the greatest players in NBA history. A first-round pick of the team out of San Francisco back in 1956, Russell earned a whopping 11 championships during his run in Boston.

He led one of the greatest dynasties in professional sports history and has been considered an icon throughout the ages.

Sadly, Russell is no longer with us. The Pro Basketball Hall of Famer passed away in his sleep at the age of 88.

“It is with a very heavy heart we would like to pass along to all of Bill’s friends, fans and followers. Bill Russell, the most prolific winner in American sports history, passed away peacefully today at the age of 88, with his wife, Jeannine, by his side. Arrangements for his memorial service will be announced soon.”

Announcement via Bill Russell’s official Twitter account

In addition to winning 11 NBA titles, Russell earned the MVP five times, was a 12-time All-Star and won two NCAA championships with the San Francisco Dons.

Russell’s athletic prowess dates way back to the 1950s when he suited up for the University of San Francisco. In addition to leading that program to two national championships, he starred on its track and field team. He was a standout in the high jump, ranking as the seventh-best high-jumper in the world in 1956.

Before his rookie season with Boston, Russell was the captain of the U.S. Men’s basketball team in the 1956 Summer Olympics in Australia. He helped bring gold back to the states by averaging 14.1 points during the games.

An advocate for social justice and racial equality, Russell made an impact with his actions off the court, too.

“Racism cannot just be shaken out of the fabric of society because, like dust from a rug, it dissipates into the air for a bit and then settles right back where it was, growing thicker with time.

Police reform is a start, but it is not enough. We need to dismantle broken systems and start over. We need to make our voices heard, through multiple organizations, using many different tactics. We need to demand that America gets a new rug.”

Bill Russell (August, 2020)

As for Russell’s personal life, he was married to his high school love, Rose Swisher, from 1956-73. They had thre children, Karen, William Jr. and Jacob. Bill is survived by his fourth wife, Jeannine Russell and the children mentioned above. Our thoughts obviously go out to those closest to him during these most difficult of times.

As a breaking news story, we’ll have much more on this sad news as it develops. For now, the NBA world has lost a true legend in Bill Russell.

NBA world pays homage to Bill Russell following his death

bill russell
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Comissioner Adam Silver released a statement immediately following the news of Russell’s passing.

“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.

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.”

Adam Silver statement on the death of Bill Russell

Others around the NBA also paid homage to Mr. Russell.