The NBA lost a giant of the game on Sunday when 11-time champion and 5-time MVP Bill Russell died at the age of 88 with his wife by his side. The news was announced publicly on Russell’s Twitter account, which offered a remembrance of one of the greatest players and most important figures in basketball history, both on and off the court.
Russell was one of the most dominant players the NBA has ever seen, averaging 15.1 points and an unbelievable 22.5 rebounds per game in his career — blocks were not an official stat during Russell’s time in the NBA or he’d undoubtedly have posted an incredible figure there, too. He led the Celtics to 11 championships as both a player and, for his final two rings, a player-coach. Russell was also a key figure in the civil rights movement in America, working throughout his life to fight for the rights of Black Americans and speaking out and against discrimination in all forms.
The story of the NBA is impossible to tell without Russell, and he was one of the great ambassadors for the game — and sports in general — that we’ve ever seen. He was a constant presence at league events and the current stars of the game always showed incredible reverence for what he’d done in paving the way for them and helping create what the NBA has become today. Russell will be missed tremendously by the NBA family.