Bill Russell, one of the legends of basketball, has died at the age of 88. The announcement was posted on his verified Twitter account.
Russell won more NBA titles than any player in history. All eleven were with Boston Celtic. As a five-time league MVP, he changed the game, making shot-blocking a key component on defense. And he was a black athlete who raised his voice against racial injustice when it was not as common as it is today.
One day when Bill Russell was 9, he was outside his apartment at Projects in Oakland, Calif. Five boys ran and one slapped him in the face. He and his mother went looking for the group, and when they found them, young Bill awaited the mother's justice. Instead, Katie Russell said: Fight them, one at a time. They won two, lost three. In a 2013 interview for the Civil Rights History Project, Russell said that his mother's message to her crying son changed her life.
By 1963, in this NBA Finals game, Russell was a shot-blocking threat, which represented a major change in the game.
There has always been a saying: No good defensive player ever gives up. In the 1950s, his coach at the University of San Francisco believed so. But Russell did not. He was also a track and field high jumper, and it seemed completely reasonable to try to rise up in basketball as well.
From 1957 to 1969, the Celtics won 11 titles, including eight straight. Bob Cousy, Tom Heinsohn, Sam Jones, KC. Jones and many others.
He was the bridge to all 11 championships, a competitor so fierce that he often vomited before games. When Orbach retired, he named Russell to replace him, making him the first black head coach in the NBA. It was historic, but Russell said he didn't mind. He only believed that he was the best person for the job.