He was for his family “the most prolific winner in American sports history” and for former President Barack Obama ” a giant “ : Bill Russell, crowned eleven-time NBA champion with the Celtics and civil rights defender, died on Sunday July 31.
“Bill Russell, the most prolific winner in American sports history, died peacefully today at the age of 88, with his wife Jeannine at his bedside”announced his family on the Twitter account of the former player.
Upon the announcement of his death, the NBA paid tribute to the “greatest champion of all team sports”. His record is impressive and will probably never be equaled: in thirteen seasons in the NBA, all under the green jersey of the Boston Celtics, Russell won eleven league titles, a record that still stands, including eight in a row from 1959 to 1966.
Figure of American society
Although he ended his career with a very respectable average of 15.1 points per game, Russell made a name for himself thanks to his defense: from the height of his 2.08 m, he was intractable and sickened his opponents with their counters. He was also the first black American appointed to head a professional sports franchise across the Atlantic and the first to be crowned, in his second year (1967), at the head of ” his “ Celtics.
It is also outside the basketball courts that Russell has become a figure in American society, which earned him in 2011 from the hands of Barack Obama the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest American civilian honor.
“Today we lost a giant”reacted to the announcement of his death the former American president. “On the court, he was the greatest champion in basketball history. Off the pitch, he was a civil rights pioneer, marching with Doctor (Martin Luther) King and standing alongside Muhammad Ali. »
Advance the cause of civil rights
Born in 1934 in Louisiana, in a Deep South still living under a regime of racial discrimination, before moving with his family to California in the 1940s, Russell used his notoriety to advance the cause of civil rights. In 1963, he participated in Martin Luther King’s March on Washington.
“Bill stood for something much bigger than sport: the values of equality, respect and inclusion that he inscribed in our league’s DNA”NBA boss Adam Silver said in a statement.
While the date of his funeral has not yet been set, his family hoped that “Each of us finds ways to speak and act Bill’s way, without compromise, with dignity and an always constructive approach.”