NBA great and civil rights activist, Bill Russell passes away at the age of 88

New DelhiEdited By: Abhinav SinghUpdated: Aug 01, 2022, 03:56 PM IST


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11-time NBA champion, 12-time All-Star, a five-time MVP and a tireless civil rights activist, Bill Russell departed for a higher abode on Sunday, leaving the sporting world in tears

The sporting world, in particular, the basketballing world became a lot poorer on Sunday (July 31) as Boston Celtics' great Bill Russell died at the age of 88. Russell's family took to his official Twitter account to share the news. 

According to the statement, Bill died 'peacefully' with his wife Jeannine by his side. 

"Bill Russell, the most prolific winner in American sports history, passed away peacefully today at age 88, with his wife, Jeannine, by his side. Arrangements for his memorial service will be announced soon." read the statement. 

The family statement also added, "Bill's wife, Jeannine, and his many friends and family thank you for keeping Bill in your prayers. Perhaps you'll relive one or two of the golden moments he gave us, or recall his trademark laugh as he delighted in explaining the real story behind how those moments unfolded. And we hope each of us can find a new way to act or speak up with Bill's uncompromising, dignified and always constructive commitment to principle. That would be one last, and lasting, win for our beloved #6."


Boston Celtics, Russell's home franchise also released a statement and paid homage to their greatest star.

“To be the greatest champion in your sport, to revolutionize the way the game is played, and to be a societal leader all at once seems unthinkable, but that is who Bill Russell was,”


Russell redefined the way the game of basketball was played. He brought an intense rebounding and defensive technique that rivalled those playing flashy basketball. Russell averaged 15.1 points and 22.5 rebounds per game for his career.

However, the 11-time NBA champion and a 12-time All-Star had a deeper impact, not only on the basketball generations to come but also on the social fabric of America.

At a time when racism was rife in the US, Bill became a role model, who was idolised by both whites and non-whites alike. Russell attended Dr Martin Luther King's iconic 'I have a dream' speech whilst sitting in the first row and later marched with him.

He also supported Muhammad Ali when the pugilist was targeted for his views on racism. Bill was such a trailblazer that he became the first African-American coach of an NBA franchise. 

Apart from leading the Celtics to numerous titles, Bill also won an Olympic gold medal in 1956 with the USA whilst leading the team. In 2011, the five-time Most Valuable Player (MVP) was awarded the Medal of Freedom by the Obama government. 

His passing has invited tearful and sincere condolence messages from across the globe. It's rare for a player to have such an impact on and off the court. However, Bill was one of those players that are born once in a century. 

(With inputs from agencies)