Last week, the world of professional sports lost one of the greatest athletes. Bill Russell, a two-time Hall of famer who led the Boston Celtics to 11 championships, has died at the age of 88. In addition to working on the basketball court, Russell was also a dedicated quarterback who fought for racial equality in sports. and in society as a whole. In connection with his passing, a number of famous NBA veterans took the time to pay their respects. Among them are such as Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and Stephen Curry.
Many will be tempted to say that Michael Jordan is the most formidable player who has ever entered the basketball court. But if you ask the subject of “The Last Dance” (available for streaming on a Netflix subscription), he will probably tell you that Bill Russell deserves that title. After Russell’s death, the owner of the Chicago Bull, who became the Charlotte Hornets, released a statement that was posted on his team’s Instagram account.
Michael Jordan’s baseball contemporary Charles Barkley shared similar feelings about the legendary athlete. Inside the NBA, which is still Barkley’s television home, shared his statement via their social media accounts.
Reactions also came from co-hosts Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith, with the latter reflecting on what it was like to be drafted by Bill Russell many years ago. A number of current NBA players have also shared their memories of Russell, including Stephen Curry of the championship-winning Golden State Warriors.
Former Miami Heat legend Dwyane Wade talks a lot about the NBA GOATS, so it’s no surprise that he paid tribute through his Instagram stories.
Although the late player was a real Celtic until the very end, he earned the respect of so many idols from the rival conference team, the Los Angeles Lakers. Among them is the legendary point guard, businessman and star of Apple TV+ documentaries Magic Johnson.
Laker teammate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was also strongly influenced by the late center and openly spoke about the legacy of this man in an entry on his blog. The player told how he met the late Boston Celtic and how they became defenders in the 60s and 70s along with other great sports figures such as Muhammad Ali and Jim Brown. He summed it up when he recalled his experience at the Cleveland Summit in 1967, where several black athletes met to determine the sincerity of Ali’s refusal to be drafted into the U.S. Army:
Bill was the most famous participant at the summit, apart from Jim Brown and Ali, but he never tried to use it to influence the rest of us. His approach was logical and unbiased, encouraging us to listen with an open mind to what Ali had to say. Such a reasonable approach turned out to be much more effective than trying to convince us. He knew that Ali could speak eloquently and passionately for himself, and that if we were open, we would see the truth in what he was saying. It was a huge lesson in humility and leadership that guided me many years later.
It goes without saying that the basketball community and the public at large owe a lot to Bill Russell. The man whose name adorns the NBA Finals MVP title usually never bragged during an interview. Instead, he seemed more pleased with the progress made in professional sports since he started playing. The former player-coach has experienced a lot: from the historic Dream Team of 1992 to even the NBA bubble formed in 2020 due to a pandemic. He may leave, but he will definitely never be forgotten.
We here at CinemaBlend express our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of Bill Russell at this time.