Bill Russell: NBA legend dies at 88

Bill Russell: NBA legend dies at 88

“It is with a heavy heart that we want to share this with all of Bill’s friends, fans and followers,” the statement said. “Bill Russell, the most prolific winner in American sports history, passed away peacefully today at the age of 88, with his wife Jeannine at his side. Preparations for his memorial service will be announced shortly.

“Bill’s two state championships in high school provided a taste of the unparalleled streak of pure team effort to come: two-time NCAA champion, captain of a gold-medal-winning US Olympic team, eleven-time NBA champion, and topped two NBA championships Championships as the first black head coach of a North American professional sports team.

“Along the way, Bill received a number of individual awards that are unprecedented in that he did not mention them. In 2009, the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award was renamed the “Bill Russell NBA Finals” award for the two-time Hall of Famer the most valuable player.”

“Bill’s wife Jeannine and his many friends and family thank you for keeping Bill in your prayers. You might relive one or two of the golden moments he gave us, or remember his signature laugh as he was delighted to explain the real story behind how those moments unfolded. And we hope that with Bill’s uncompromising, dignified, and always constructive commitment to principle, each of us can find a new way to act or speak. That would be a final and lasting win for our beloved number 6.”

Russell won 11 championships with the Celtics, including eight straight from 1959 to 1966. He was a five-time NBA MVP and a 12-time All-Star.

As coach of the Celtics, he led Boston to two championships and became the first black head coach to win an NBA championship.

The Celtics issued a statement praising Russell and his contribution to both the team and the sport at large.

“To be the greatest champion in your sport, to revolutionize the way the game is played, and at the same time be a societal leader seems unthinkable, but that’s who Bill Russell was,” the statement said.

“Bill Russell’s DNA is woven through every element of the Celtics organization, from a relentless pursuit of excellence, to celebrating team rewards, to individual glory, to a commitment to social justice and civil rights off the pitch. Our thoughts are with his family as we mourn his passing and celebrate his tremendous legacy in basketball, in Boston and beyond.”

Russell is coached by legendary Celtics coach Arnold "editor"  Auerbach after scoring his 10,000 in a game against the Baltimore Bullets at the Boston Garden on December 12, 1964.  earned a career point.

NBA legend Michael Jordan – widely regarded as the greatest basketball player of all time – said, “Bill Russell was a pioneer — as a player, as a champion, as the NBA’s first black head coach, and as an activist. He paved the way and set an example for every black player who came into the league after him, including me. The world has lost a legend. My condolences to his family and may he rest in peace.”

Former US President Barack Obama went to social media to commend Russell’s contribution to basketball and society: “Today we lost a giant. As great as Bill Russell was, his legacy stretches far beyond – both as a player and as a person. Perhaps more than anyone, Bill knew what it took to win and what it took to lead. On the court, he was the greatest champion in basketball history. Besides that, he was a pioneer of civil rights – he marched with Dr. King and stood with Muhammad Ali.

“Bill endured abuse and vandalism for decades, but never let that stop him from speaking up for what’s right. I learned so much from the way he played, the way he trained and the way he lived his life. Michelle and I send our love to Bill’s family and everyone who admired him.”

Also NBA Commissioner Adam Silver expressed his condolences.

“Bill Russell was the greatest champion in all team sports,” Silver said in a statement. “The myriad of awards he has received for his storied career with the Boston Celtics – including a record 11 championships and five MVP awards – only begins to tell the story of Bill’s immense impact on our league and wider society.

“Bill represented something much bigger than sport: the values ​​of equality, respect and inclusion that he inculcated into our league’s DNA. At the height of his athletic career, Bill was a vigorous advocate for civil rights and social justice, a legacy he passed down to generations of NBA players who have followed in his footsteps. Despite the taunts, threats and unimaginable adversity, Bill has defied it all and stayed true to his belief that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity.”

CNN’s Homero de la Fuente contributed to this report.