Bill Russell: NBA icon and Civil Rights champion has died "peacefully"

Boston, Massachusetts - NBA legend Bill Russell has died at the age of 88 on Sunday, his family has confirmed.

Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell stands with his Presidential Medal of Freedom during the 2011 NBA All-Star game in Los Angeles.
Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell stands with his Presidential Medal of Freedom during the 2011 NBA All-Star game in Los Angeles.  © REUTERS

The 11-time NBA champion was a titan of the sporting world and paved the way for the future after becoming the first Black head coach of any North American professional sports team, leading the Boston Celtics to back-to-back NBA Championships in 1968 and 1969.

Russell's play-off rebounds-per-game average of 24.9 during his 13-year career, where he remarkably won the NBA championship in all but two seasons, is an NBA record that stands to this day.

"Bill Russell, the most prolific winner in American sports history, passed away peacefully today at age 88, with his wife, Jeannine, by his side," a statement said.

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"Bill's wife, Jeannine, and his many friends and family thank you for keeping Bill in your prayers."

"Perhaps you'll relive one or two of the golden moments he gave us, or recall his trademark laugh as he delighted in explaining the real story behind how those moments unfolded."

"And we hope each of us can find a new way to act or speak up with Bill's uncompromising, dignified and always constructive commitment to principle."

"That we be one last, and lasting, win for our beloved #6."

Away from the court, Russell championed the Civil Rights movement and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 by Barack Obama, who heralded him as "someone who stood up for the rights and dignity of all men."

Cover photo: REUTERS

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