Bill Russell, a center of legendary status, helped the University of San Francisco win back-to-back national championships in college basketball before beginning his professional life with the Boston Celtics in 1956. Russell led the team to 11 NBA championships over his 13-year career. He left the NBA in 1969 and entered the Naismith National Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975.
William Felton Russell, one of the best NBA basketball players, was born on February 12, 1934, in Monroe, Louisiana. Russell had a rough start in life due to his bad health. He suffered from a number of ailments throughout his youth.
The racially volatile South had become too much for Russell’s father, Charlie, so he uprooted the family and headed west to Oakland, California, where he got a job in the shipbuilding industry when Russell was ten years old.
The Russells had a difficult time adjusting to life in California. Unfortunately, Charlie’s wife Katie became very ill with the flu in 1946, and she passed away. His mother had been his strongest supporter and had always pushed him to do well academically, so when she passed away, Russell was devastated. After her death, he vowed to focus on his schoolwork.
Russell started playing basketball outside of school. His abilities were at first hard to spot. At Oakland’s McClymonds High School, Russell had a hard time breaking into the starting lineup due to his lack of athletic prowess. His performance improved to the point where he started his senior year.
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At the conclusion of the 1969 campaign, Russell made the decision to call it quits in his baseball career. Over the course of the subsequent few decades, he made sporadic returns to the sport as a coach or an executive, but his teams were never able to achieve the same level of sustained success that he had enjoyed as a player. The Sacramento Kings were under his leadership in the 1980s when he served as the head of basketball operations for the team.
In 1975, in recognition of the numerous accomplishments that he had made to the sport of basketball, Bill Russell was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Sports Hall of Fame.
Despite being an active supporter of the Civil Rights Movement, Russell encountered challenges in his life that were unrelated to basketball. The diehard fans of Boston were never able to accept him in the same manner that they did his white colleagues. When the band was on tour, he was required to check into a hotel that was distinct from the others in the group on a regular basis.
Russell has three marriages. He was married to his first wife, Rose, for 17 years, during which time he welcomed a daughter, Karen, and two boys, Buddha and Jacob.
In 2010, President Obama awarded Russell the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civil honor.
On July 31, 2022, Russel passed away. He lived to be 88.
On August 11, 2022, the NBA officially stated that all teams will be required to retire Russell’s No. 6 jersey.