Bill Russell, NBA legend and the Greatest of All Time (GOAT), died peacefully on Sunday (July 31). He was 88.
Russell’s family said in a statement he passed away “peacefully” with his wife by his side. It was unclear how Russell died. “It is with a very heavy heart we would like to pass along to all of Bill’s friends, fans & followers,” the statement started. An NCAA champion; captain of a gold-medal winning US Olympic team; 11 times an NBA champion; and at the helm for two NBA championships as the first Black head coach of any North American professional sports team passed away with his family by his side.
Born in Monroe, Louisiana in 1934, Russell would have one of the more decorated careers in sports. He won two state championships in high school before attending the University of San Francisco, He was drafted No. 2 overall by the Boston Celtics where he would go on to win a record 11 NBA titles and, in later years, became the first Black head coach of a major North American sports team and the first Black coach to win an NBA title.
Russell’s legacy on the court resulted in the NBA renaming the NBA Finals MVP trophy to the Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP trophy in 2009, but his most significant impact came off the court. As a champion for civil rights, Russell famously staged a boycott along with his Black Celtics teammates of a 1961 exhibition game in Kentucky due to racist treatment by a local restaurant. He also famously declined to attend his jersey retirement at Boston Garden in 1972 and refused to participate in his Hall of Fame induction in 1975. He leaves behind a legacy of greatness.