BOSTON – Celtics legend Bill Russell passed away on Sunday at age 88 family announced.
Russell won 11 NBA championships, five league MVPs, and also became the first black head coach in NBA history.
“Bill’s wife, Jeannine, and his many friends and family, thank you for keeping Bill in your prayers. You may relive one or two of the golden moments he gave us, or remember his signature smile when he was delighted to explaining the real story behind those moments unfolded,” his family said in a statement. “And we hope each of us can find a new way to act or speak with Bill’s uncompromising, dignified and always constructive commitment to the principle.”
Funeral services will be announced shortly, Russell’s family said.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called Russell “the greatest champion in all team sports.” Silver said he often referred to Russell as “Baketball’s Babe Ruth” because he crossed time.
In 2011, President Barack Obama honored Russell with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
“Bill stood for something much bigger than sport: the values of equality, respect and inclusion that he instilled in the TBEN of our league. At the height of his athletic career, Bill vigorously advocated civil rights and social justice, a legacy he passed on. to generations of NBA players who followed in his footsteps. Through the taunts, threats and unimaginable adversity, Bill rose above all and remained true to his belief that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity.”
Former Celtics player Paul Pierce said, “Today is a sad day for the NBA family.”