He won 11 rings, fought against racial segregation, battled Wilt Chamberlain, and always won with a new concept in the game: defence
Bill Russell, one of the greatest NBAbasketball players of all time, has died at the age of 88.
The Boston Celtics legend passed away peacefully with his wife by his side according to a statement by his family.
With him goes a piece of the NBA’s history, as he was largely considered the best player the league had ever seen before the arrival of Michael Jordan.
They called Russell the Lord of the Rings (he won 11 in 13 seasons, the most in American professional sports with the NHL’s Henri Richard).
A five-time MVP and 12-time All-Star, Russell changed the game of basketball thanks to his shot-blocking ability and overall defence. He finished his career with 21,620 rebounds – an average of 22.5 per game. He once had 51 rebounds in a game, and 49 in two others.
He averaged 15.1 points and 4.3 assists per game, and posted 12 straight 1,000 rebound seasons.
Russell‘s career was partly defined by his rivalry with Wilt Chamberlain. Their battle on November 7, 1959 pitted the best offensive and defensive centres against one another.
Although Chamberlain outscored Russell 30-22, the Celtics came out on top 115-106 over the Philadelphia Warriors.
Their rivalry became one of basketballs greatest, with Russell and the Celtics winning seven of their eight playoff battles.
“Russ revolutionized basketball and he was the man who made us go,” said Bob Cousy, the team’s Hall of Fame playmaker. “Without him, we wouldn’t have won a championship.”
Russell was also basketball’s first African American superstar and the first in any sport in Boston, which made him an icon and a target for criticism in the city.
His home in Reading was vandalised by intruders who destroyed his trophies, painted racial slurs on the walls, and defecated in the beds.
After retiring, Russell hosted radio and television talks shows, and wrote newspaper column. He even tried his hand at coaching.
He became the first black player inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975, and was voted the Greatest Player in the History of the NBA by the Professional Basketball Writers Association of America in 1980.
He was later part of the 75th Anniversary Team announced by the NBA in October 2021, while Boston honoured him with a statue at City Hall Plaza in 2013.