(KRON) — Bay Area sports icon and the “most prolific winner in American sports history,” Bill Russell, has passed away, according to a tweet posted to Russell’s Twitter account.
Russell grew up right here in the Bay Area and attended McClymonds High School in Oakland. Russell had a very successful high school basketball career that gave his loved ones a glimpse of what he might be able to do in the sport. Russell won two NCAA championships with the University of San Francisco before going on to become the captain of a gold-medal winning Olympic basketball team.
His professional basketball career was filled with achievements, namely winning 9 NBA championships with the Boston Celtics. After Russell’s accomplishments on the court, the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award was renamed in his honor in 2009. Russell went on to become the first Black head coach of any North American professional sports team, and he earned two more NBA Championship titles as a coach.
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Russell is remembered not only for his professional accomplishments but also for his activism. Russell boycotted an exhibition game in 1969 to highlight the discrimination that was happening at the time. Russell also led Mississippi’s first integrated basketball camp in the 1960s, not long after the assassination of civil rights activist Medgar Evans.
In 2010 President Barack Obama awarded Russell the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his role in highlighting the civil rights movement as well as for his accomplishments in basketball.
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 principal. That would be one last and lasting win for our beloved #6.Tweet from Bill Russell’s family
The announcement states that Russell died peacefully with his wife Jeannine by his side. A memorial service to celebrate Russell’s life will be announced soon.