11-time NBA champion Bill Russell dies at 88

11-time NBA champion Bill Russell dies at 88

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Bill Russell, an 11-time NBA champion as a player and coach with the Boston Celtics and one of the most important figures in NBA history, has died at the age of 88, his family announced Sunday. Russell passed away peacefully with his wife Jeanine by his side.

In the year Born in Louisiana in 1934, Russell was not initially considered a basketball prospect. His first scholarship offer was to the University of San Francisco, a school not known for his basketball prowess but where Russell led back-to-back national championships in 1955 and 1956. In addition to basketball, Russell was a track star at San Francisco. Especially competing in the high jump. In the year He won an Olympic gold medal in basketball before turning professional in 1956.

Despite his college prowess, Russell was not the first pick in the 1956 NBA draft. That honor went to Duquesne wing C. Green. That made Russell the No. 2 pick for the St. Louis Hawks. However, circumstances worked in Russell’s favor. Boston Celtics star Ed McCauley’s son was being treated for meningitis in St. Louis, so he asked the team to send him there. They did, and Boston picked No. 2 in exchange for McCauley and Hall of Famer Cliff Hagan. The deal didn’t exactly blow up in St. Louis’ face. In the year Despite losing the 1957 Finals to Boston, the Hawks came back to win it all in a 1958 rematch with the Celtics. But that would be the last championship they won. Russell won 10 more, including eight in a row.

The trade was just as important to Russell as the Celtics. “If I had drafted in St. Louis, I wouldn’t have been in the NBA,” Russell said in an interview with NBATV. “St. Louis was very racist.” Tragically, Russell faced racism throughout his early life in the South and throughout his career in Boston, and became one of the most socially conscious athletes in American history. He attended Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and was one of several black athletes and leaders who attended the 1967 rally in Cleveland to support Muhammad Ali. In the year In 1966, Russell became the first black head coach in American sports history when he replaced Red Auerbach in Boston. While coaching the team in the last two championships, he continues his role as the starting center of the team.

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