Bill Russell, a former Boston Celtics standout who subsequently became the league’s first Black coach, died on Sunday. He was 88 years old at the time.
Russell, who was thought to be the NBA’s first Black superstar, died peacefully with his wife Jeannine by his side, according to a statement released on his Twitter. There was no mention of the reason for death.
Russell was born in Monroe, Louisiana, in 1934. When he was eight years old, his family relocated to Oakland, California. They lived in a variety of public housing developments there.
Russell went to McClymonds High School, where he won back-to-back state basketball championships as a junior and senior. He played basketball for the University of San Francisco in college. He became the team’s focal point, and they won the NCAA championships in both 1955 and 1956.
In addition to basketball, he was a track and field standout at San Francisco, most notably in the high jump. Before turning professional, he won an Olympic gold medal in basketball as Team USA’s captain in 1956.
Russell was a Boston Celtics player from 1956 through 1969. During his 13 years with the franchise, the Celtics won 11 NBA championships. On two of those championship teams, he was the player coach.
He won five MVP titles and appeared in 12 All-Star games during his playing career.
Russell retired as a player in 1969 and went on to coach the Seattle Supersonics from 1973 to 1977 and the Sacramento Kings from 1987 to 1988. Neither stint, however, was very successful.
In addition to coaching, he worked as a color commentator for CBS and TBS. He presented “Saturday Night Live” in 1979.
He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the National Collegiate Hall of Fame for his tremendous accomplishments in the NBA.
Former President Barack Obama also gave him the Medal of Freedom in 2011, the nation’s highest civilian honor. In 2017, he received the NBA’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Russell had a net worth of $10 million at the time of his death, according to Celebrity Net Worth.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement:
“Bill stood for something much bigger than sports: the values of equality, respect and inclusion that he stamped into the DNA of our league. At the height of his athletic career, Bill advocated vigorously for civil rights and social justice, a legacy he passed down to generations of NBA players who followed in his footsteps. Through the taunts, threats and unthinkable adversity, Bill rose above it all and remained true to his belief that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity.”