Bill Russell changed basketball, and the world.


Image from Creative Commons

With the release of Bill Russell: Legend, basketball fans across the U.S. have been discussing Bill Russell’s extensive legacy with newfound appreciation. Born in 1934 Louisiana, Russell grew up facing deep racism that followed him to the University of San Francisco and Boston. Drafted to the Celtics in 1956, Russell made an immediate impact, winning a championship as the starting center. Over the next 12 seasons, Russell won 5 MVPs, 10 more championships, and was an All-Star every year.

Throughout his constant success, Russell didn’t forget the racism he faced and was very vocal during the civil rights movement occurring during his career. Russell spoke publicly against racism in the U.S, boycotting segregated cafes and hotels. Russell hosted basketball clinics for young players in the Deep South. In 1963, Russell marched on Washington with Dr. King. He was offered the opportunity to give a speech but declined because he felt he didn’t put in the same work as the other speakers and had to do more. In 1966, Russell transitioned to player/coach and became the first black coach in major U.S. sports history. When boxing legend Muhammad Ali refused to be drafted to fight in the Vietnam War because of his religion, Russell supported him. 

Russell left behind a legacy of fighting for civil rights, trailblazing in sports and being a lifelong winner after his passing in the summer of 2022 at the age of 88. He will be remembered forever as an athlete, an activist, a father, a husband and, most importantly, as a man.