Bill Russell peacefully passed away on Sunday, July 31st, 2022. This may be the 11th time you’ve seen a Bill Russell story, but they never get old. In a way, it’s like how Russell won the NBA Finals 11 times and never got tired of it. Russell decided he would be the greatest winner in North American Sports history and he would not let that be what defined him. There is a saying for celebrities that when they begin to venture onto things outside of their profession, they are doing side quests. For Russell, basketball was the real side quest to being a larger-than-life human. On and Off the court, Russell did everything in his power to be the best and care for others. 88 years of amazing life before passing away peacefully is something Bill Russell would be proud of.
Off the Court: Man of Freedom
Despite being the best player on the Celtics, Russell still has many stories of the racism he received while playing in Boston. In a time when players of all races were finally coming together to form teams and the horrible people of the time couldn’t care less. Russell wasn’t alone in the athletes looking to better their freedom for the people. In 1967, Muhammad Ali was drafted to serve in the U.S. Military against Vietnam. Ali refused to serve and held a conference in Cleveland, Ohio. Ali brought quite the backup with him, two of the men being Russell himself and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The message the men wanted to make was that they would not fight for a country that would not fight for them.
In 1961, Russell held a player protest after not receiving service in a hotel in Kentucky the night before playing the St. Louis Hawks. Reminder, this guy is arguably the best athlete on the planet at the time and some hotel thought his skin tone was a reason to not serve him. Russell was always one to defend himself and those in need.
Russell was a trailblazer in the civil rights of basketball as well. First Black NBA Coach and was a part of the first starting five to feature all Black players. He led the way for many more of the players we know and love today.
Bigger Than Life on the Court
It’s hard to put into words what Russell accomplished on the court. One of the greatest defenders and rebounders of all time. The greatest winner the sport has ever witnessed. Russell has had 21 games in his basketball career that were winner-take-all. A perfect 21-0. 10-0 in Game Sevens. Two-time NCAA Champion. We know he has 11 NBA Rings, but he also has two more as a coach. 15 championships at the college and professional levels combined. It would take dropping Michael Jordan or LeBron James in the same era to get a chance at witnessing such dominance.
Russell became such the winner, that the award that goes to the best player in the winning finals team is named after him. Fitting considering he would have 11 of his own.
Bill Russell will truly be missed. One of the greatest lives we will ever see. Maxed out his possibilities and helped spread his love to others. Rest in Peace.
Follow me on Twitter for more sports news and analysis! Also, tune into the Sideline Summit podcast on all platforms and follow us on all platforms for sports news and analysis. Be sure to check out some other Belly Up Articles here.