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Celebs, sports stars and fans are mourning the loss of NBA legend, Bill Russell. The 11-time NBA champion as a player, coach with the Boston Celtics and one of the most important figures in NBA history, died at the age of 88, his family announced Sunday, with his wife Jeannine by his side.
His family announced the sad news in a statement shared to Twitter, where they reflected on Russell's lasting legacy and his accomplishments both on and off the court.
"Bill’s two state championships in high school offered a glimmer of the incomparable run of pure team accomplishment to come: twice an NCAA champion; captain of a gold-medal-winning US Olympic team; 11 times an NBA champion; and at the helm for two NBA championships as the first black head coach of any North American professional sports team," the statement read. "Along the way, Bill earned a string of individual awards that stands unprecedented as it went unmentioned by him. In 2009, the award for the NBA Finals most valuable player was renamed after two-time Hall of Famer as the 'Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award.'"
"But for all the winning, Bill's understanding of the struggle is what illuminated his life. From boycotting a 1961 exhibition game to unmask too-long-tolerated discrimination, to leading Mississippi's first integrated basketball camp in the combustible wake of Medgar Evans' assassination, to decades of activism ultimately recognized by his receipt of the Presidential Medal of Freedom...," the statement, which included a photo of Russell, his wife and their two dogs continued. "Bill called out injustice with an unforgiving candor that he intended would disrupt the status quo, and with a powerful example that, though never his humble intention, will forever inspire teamwork, selflessness and thoughtful change."
Fellow NBA great, Steph Curry, former President Barack Obama and more famous figures in the sports world and beyond, took to social media following the news of Russell's passing.
Curry shared a throwback of him and the late legend on Instagram, following the Golden State Warriors' 2015 championship win, writing, "Trailblazer. Icon. Greatest Champ in basketball. Made the world on and off the court a better place. Thank you and rest easy! 11."
Curry also shared a photo of on his Instagram Story of his father, basketball star, Dell Curry and his brother, Brooklyn Nets guard, Seth Curry, alongside Russell. He wrote nothing besides the photo, simply adding a prayer hands emoji to the pic.
In Obama's tribute to Russell, he looked back on his basketball career and his work as a civil rights trailblazer -- commending Russell and sharing the lessons he learned from him along the way.
"Today, we lost a giant. As tall as Bill Russell stood, his legacy rises far higher—both as a player and as a person," Obama tweeted. "Perhaps more than anyone else, Bill knew what it took to win and what it took to lead. On the court, he was the greatest champion in basketball history. Off of it, he was a civil rights trailblazer—marching with Dr. King and standing with Muhammad Ali."
He added, "For decades, Bill endured insults and vandalism, but never let it stop him from speaking up for what’s right. I learned so much from the way he played, the way he coached, and the way he lived his life. Michelle and I send our love to Bill’s family, and everyone who admired him."
Today, we lost a giant.
As tall as Bill Russell stood, his legacy rises far higher—both as a player and as a person.
The Boston Celtics, the team at which Russell earned all 11 of his championship rings, also paid tribute to the basketball calling him a revolutionary in the sport and an important societal leader.
"To be the greatest champion in your sport, to revolutionize the way the game is played, and to be a societal leader all at once seems unthinkable, but that is who Bill Russell was," the team's official Twitter page wrote in a statement. "Bill was a champion unlike any other in the history of team sports - an 11-time NBA champion, including winning eight consecutive titles, a five-time MVP, an Olympic Gold Medalist and the NBA’s first Black head coach."
The Celtics continued, "Bill Russell‘s DNA is woven through every element of the Celtics organization, from the relentless pursuit of excellence, to the celebration of team rewards over individual glory, to a commitment to social justice and civil rights off the court. Our thoughts are with his family as we mourn his passing and celebrate his enormous legacy in basketball, Boston, and beyond.
To be the greatest champion in your sport, to revolutionize the way the game is played, and to be a societal leader all at once seems unthinkable, but that is who Bill Russell was. (1/4) pic.twitter.com/K0Ue0hKiLs
This is a teary-eyed Sunday knowing that we lost a legendary human being @RealBillRussell His dedication to civil-rights, human-rights and the sport of basketball puts him beyond legendary status. That smile will be missed. pic.twitter.com/fmZSmFVkqp
The world lost a legend with the passing of Bill Russell. His impact on basketball and society will not be forgotten. He handled every adversity with dignity and grace, and walked away a champion. My condolences to his family and those blessed enough to call him a friend.
Bill Russell was my idol. I looked up to him on the court and off. His success on the court was undeniable; he was dominate and great, winning 11 NBA championships. Off the court, Bill Russell paved the way for guys like me. pic.twitter.com/ZMIrEx8Tne
Bill Russell was a once-in-a-generation activist athlete who made all around him better. He had a career of firsts & led the way for many. I admired him my entire life & he had a huge influence on my career. He was the ultimate leader, ultimate team player & ultimate champion. pic.twitter.com/tM6C69GePz