The sports world lost a trailblazing icon Sunday with the death of 11-time NBA champion and basketball Hall of Famer Bill Russell at the age of 88.
Universally regarded as one of the greatest and most important players in the sport’s history, Russell forged an indelible legacy during his 13-year NBA career, winning 11 titles and five MVPs with the Celtics from 1956 to ’69. Among Russell’s countless achievements both on and off the floor, the two-time Naismith Hall of Fame inductee and 2011 Presidential Medal of Freedom winner forever altered the course of sports history in 1966 by becoming the first black head coach in North American sports—a role he served in while captaining Boston to two more titles in his final three seasons.
After news of Russell’s death broke Sunday morning, tributes poured in from athletes and personalities across the globe in honor of the basketball legend and civil rights pioneer:
Diana Taurasi (via Sports Illustrated’s Ben Pickman):
“Bill was one of the first guys that came to a lot of WNBA games before it was popular, before you got to be on Instagram if you’re coming to a WNBA game. He was coming to the games a lot. And obviously with Annie [Meyers Drysdale] and Bill’s relationship, we got to chat with him pretty often when he would come to the games. He would stay afterwards so, that news is really really sad.
“When you lose people like Bill he’s a bridge to all of the struggle that that generation went through to get to this point so, it’s very sad news.
“… When you lose a figure like that. Life’s precious. You’re here one day and you’re gone the next. If everyone could take a little bit of what Bill Russell did for his entire life, we’d be a better world.
“… I think that’s what we were talking about. The things that he did with Kareem, Jim Brown and pushing everything forward with equality. They were the first to do it when it actually meant giving something up, along with Muhammad Ali. Giving up part of the things that they loved to do for the betterment of this country.”
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