NBA World Pays Tribute to Bill Russell After Celtics Legend's Death

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVJuly 31, 2022

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Few people in American history, both inside and outside of the sports world, made as meaningful of an impact and left as lasting of an impression as Bill Russell did.

It comes as no surprise, then, that so many members of the NBA family paid tribute to the legend after his family announced Sunday he had died at the age of 88:

Charlotte Hornets @hornets

A statement from Hornets Chairman Michael Jordan on the passing of NBA legend Bill Russell. <a href="https://t.co/RdYcnuCrmb">pic.twitter.com/RdYcnuCrmb</a>

NBA Communications @NBAPR

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver issued the following statement today regarding the passing of Bill Russell: <a href="https://t.co/DGX6ukOT4b">pic.twitter.com/DGX6ukOT4b</a>

Earvin Magic Johnson @MagicJohnson

This is a tremendous loss for the entire basketball world. Cookie and I are praying for the Bill’s family and loved ones, our NBA family, and the entire basketball community. 🙏🏾 <a href="https://t.co/kJvF5uBZFI">pic.twitter.com/kJvF5uBZFI</a>

Jaylen Brown @FCHWPO

Rest In Peace 🕊thank you for paving the way and inspiring so many Today is a sad day but also great day to celebrate his legacy and what he stood for 💚 <a href="https://t.co/kvDaIsjpGG">pic.twitter.com/kvDaIsjpGG</a>

Jaylen Brown @FCHWPO

I’m honored to be able to have spent time with you <a href="https://twitter.com/RealBillRussell?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@RealBillRussell</a> thank you for everything you stood for you <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/forever6?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#forever6</a>

Jaylen Brown @FCHWPO

<a href="https://t.co/tlKQeFJP4f">pic.twitter.com/tlKQeFJP4f</a>

Jayson Tatum @jaytatum0

Thank you for everything! R.I.P Legend 🙏🏽 <a href="https://t.co/tn2iGsArav">pic.twitter.com/tn2iGsArav</a>

Robert Horry @RKHorry

This is a teary-eyed Sunday knowing that we lost a legendary human being <a href="https://twitter.com/RealBillRussell?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@RealBillRussell</a> His dedication to civil-rights, human-rights and the sport of basketball puts him beyond legendary status. That smile will be missed. <a href="https://t.co/fmZSmFVkqp">pic.twitter.com/fmZSmFVkqp</a>

Paul Pierce @paulpierce34

I’ll never forget this day we was like kids sitting around a camp fire listening to your stories <a href="https://t.co/ZX3DDPRAwt">pic.twitter.com/ZX3DDPRAwt</a>

Victor Oladipo @VicOladipo

Thank you for all you did for us and this game. Thank you for paving the way. Respect and Love always. Rest in Paradise. 🙏🏿🕊🐐. <a href="https://t.co/BglOLLohHI">https://t.co/BglOLLohHI</a>

Isaiah Thomas @isaiahthomas

RIP Bill Russell ☘️

Isiah Thomas @IsiahThomas

Rest in peace Bill Russell you were everything we all aspired to be, your winning spirit will live forever my friend. Thank you for your words of wisdom. <a href="https://t.co/rBjFS6nhzW">pic.twitter.com/rBjFS6nhzW</a>

marcus smart @smart_MS3

12 time <a href="https://twitter.com/NBA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NBA</a> All-Star<br>11 NBA rings <br>5 MVPs<br>No 3-point line <br>No social media <br>Just played and dominated in a day and a league that was def not soft. <a href="https://twitter.com/celtics?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@celtics</a> to the core ☘️<br>RIP <a href="https://twitter.com/RealBillRussell?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@RealBillRussell</a> 😢 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LEGENDARY?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#LEGENDARY</a> <a href="https://t.co/mG7K1AOfQq">pic.twitter.com/mG7K1AOfQq</a>

Chris Paul @CP3

Unapologetically himself at all times!! The ultimate leader and just happened to be one of the best hoopers ever! RIP Mr Russell, you will be dearly missed 🙏🏾🕊 <a href="https://t.co/30xXhoGXsj">pic.twitter.com/30xXhoGXsj</a>

Carmelo Anthony @carmeloanthony

A champion who revolutionized the game for all of us. Bill Russell was an inspiration to me in so many ways. May he Rest in Power.

Warriors on NBCS @NBCSWarriors

Steph pays tribute to Bill Russell 💙<br><br>[via <a href="https://twitter.com/StephenCurry30?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@StephenCurry30</a>] <a href="https://t.co/tKaIq6tPTa">pic.twitter.com/tKaIq6tPTa</a>

San Antonio Spurs @spurs

Coach Pop on the passing of NBA legend Bill Russell. <a href="https://t.co/89IrDvmIqO">pic.twitter.com/89IrDvmIqO</a>

Russell is synonymous with winning, taking home 11 championships in his 13 seasons with the Boston Celtics. No player in NBA history has won as many rings as he did, and he did so as a five-time MVP, 12-time All-Star and 11-time All-NBA selection who was the focal point for his team and opposing defenses.

He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and remains one of the greatest players in the storied history of the Celtics.

The franchise honored him Sunday:

Boston Celtics @celtics

Bill was a champion unlike any other in the history of team sports - an 11-time NBA champion, including winning eight consecutive titles, a five-time MVP, an Olympic Gold Medalist and the NBA’s first Black head coach. (2/4)

Boston Celtics @celtics

Our thoughts are with his family as we mourn his passing and celebrate his enormous legacy in basketball, Boston, and beyond. (4/4)

Russell would have been an all-time great as just a player with the accolades he accumulated, but he was also a player-coach for Boston before coaching the Seattle SuperSonics and Sacramento Kings.

He is a Hall of Famer as a player and coach and was the first Black head coach in NBA history. Two of his rings came when he was a player-coach for the Celtics.

However, Russell's biggest impact may have came off the court. He was a notable civil rights activist even in the face of racism as a prominent Black athlete, which his family's announcement highlighted:

"But for all the winning, Bill's understanding of the struggle is what illuminated his life. From boycotting a 1961 exhibition game to unmask too-long-tolerated discrimination, to leading Mississippi's first integrated basketball camp in the combustible wake of Medgar Evans' assassination, to decades of activism ultimately recognized by his receipt of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010, Bill called out injustice with an unforgiving candor that he intended would disrupt the status quo, and with a powerful example that, though never his humble intention, will forever inspire teamwork, selflessness and thoughtful change."

Former President Barack Obama is the one who awarded him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and he reflected on Russell's legacy as well:

Barack Obama @BarackObama

Today, we lost a giant.<br><br>As tall as Bill Russell stood, his legacy rises far higher—both as a player and as a person.

Barack Obama @BarackObama

For decades, Bill endured insults and vandalism, but never let it stop him from speaking up for what’s right. I learned so much from the way he played, the way he coached, and the way he lived his life.<br><br>Michelle and I send our love to Bill’s family, and everyone who admired him.

Russell will forever be a legend both inside and outside of the NBA, which the reaction to his death further proved.


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