Bill Russell, the skinny Oakland high schooler who grew into the leader of basketball dynasties in San Francisco and Boston, died Sunday at the age of 88.
His family posted the news on social media, saying Russell died with his wife, Jeannine, by his side. The statement did not give the cause of death.
“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,” the family statement said. “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 would be one last, and lasting, win for our beloved #6.”
With Russell at center, the University of San Francisco Dons won 55 consecutive games and back-to-back championships in 1955 and 1956. The 6-foot-11 kid out of McClymonds High then led the Boston Celtics to 11 championships in 13 years, the last two as the first Black head coach in any major U.S. sport.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement that Russell was “the greatest champion in all of team sports.”
A Hall of Famer, five-time Most Valuable Player and 12-time All-Star, Russell in 1980 was voted the greatest player in the NBA history by basketball writers.
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