Russell, a five-time NBA Most Valuable Player and captain of the 1956 US gold medal team at the Melbourne Olympics, passed away on Sunday at the age of 88. He revolutionized defensive play in the NBA by setting incredible new standards for rebounding and shot-blocking.
From 1959 until 1966, he won the NBA title eight times in a row.
Russell was the first Black coach in North American sport and the first to win a championship, first in 1968 and again in his final three seasons as a player-coach.
For his contributions to basketball and civil rights, Russell received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 and was the first Black player to be elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975.
Russell won his first NBA Most Valuable Player title in 1958, but the Celtics lost the NBA Finals because of a foot injury that slowed him down. The next year, the Celtics started their record run of eight straight championships.
Russell led the United States to the gold medal in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. He was a five-time Most Valuable Player. He was the first Black player-coach to win a championship in a sport in North America.
Civil rights activist
To become the first Black NBA superstar and civil rights crusader, Russell overcame racism. Between 1959 and 1966, he won eight straight NBA championships. In 1975, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Russell was a pillar of the Boston Celtics dynasty and contributed to the team’s 11 championship victories over 13 years. Russell was the first black coach of a US sports team and previously worked as a player-coach with the Boston Celtics. There were rumors that Russell had been ill for a while. He didn’t attend the NBA Finals presentation ceremony in June.
In a 2020 ode to Russell, Celtics guard Jaylen Brown stated, “Because of you, it is OK to be an activist and an athlete.
The Red Sox and the city’s mayor, Michelle Wu, paid tribute elsewhere in Boston.
In honor of Russell, the NBA Finals MVP trophy was created.
“In 2011, former President Barack Obama presented Russell with the Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor.
He was no longer among us all, but he continued to encourage athletes who were protesting.