Celtics great Bill Russell, 11-time NBA champ, dead at 88 | Inquirer Sports
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Celtics great Bill Russell, 11-time NBA champ, dead at 88

02:19 AM August 01, 2022

Former Boston Celtics star Bill Russell, one of the sports world’s greatest winners as the anchor of a team that won 11 NBA championships, as well as the league’s first black coach, died on Sunday at the age of 88.

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Russell, who was also outspoken on racial issues, 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.

“Bill stood for something much bigger than sports: the values of equality, respect and inclusion that he stamped into the DNA of our league,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.

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“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.”

Russell became a superstar in the 1950s and ’60s not with flashy scoring plays but through dominating rebounding and intense defensive play that reshaped the game. He also had what team mate Tom Heinsohn called “a neurotic need to win”.

The Celtics won 11 NBA titles in Russell’s 13 years with the team from 1956 through 1969. He was the player-coach on two of those championship teams.

The Russell-era Celtics teams were rich in talent. Heinsohn, Bob Cousy, Frank Ramsey, Bill Sharman, Tom “Satch” Sanders, John Havlicek, Don Nelson, Sam Jones and K.C. Jones, his old college team mate, would all join him in the NBA Hall of Fame, as would their coach, Red Auerbach.

But Russell’s rebounding and defense, especially his shot-blocking, were unprecedented and set him apart. Russell, who was spindly compared to opponents at the center position when he came into the NBA, 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.” “In time, he changed how people understood the craft. Until Russell, the game stayed close to the floor. No longer.”

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