Basketball legend Bill Russell has died

Bill Russell, 11-time NBA champion and Boston Celtics legend, has died at the age of 88. The NBA Finals Most Valuable Player trophy is named after Russell. Russell was one of the first black players in college basketball.

His death was announced by his family without further details.

When Russell was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975, Red Auerbach, who orchestrated his arrival with the Celtics and coached him to nine championship teams, called him “the most destructive force in the history of the game.”

He’s not alone in that opinion: In a poll of basketball experts in 1980 (long before Michael Jordan and LeBron James entered the scene), Russell was voted the best player in NBA history.

Russell’s speed and uncanny shot-blocking ability revolutionized the center position, once a place for slower players. Former Senator Bill Bradley, who played for Russell with the New York Knicks in the 1960s, viewed him as “the smartest player to ever play the game and the epitome of a team leader.”

Russell is also known as a human rights activist. He attended the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and sat in the front row of the crowd to hear the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to give his “I Have a Dream” speech.

After civil rights activist Medgar Evers was killed, Russell went to Mississippi and teamed up with Evers’ brother Charles to open a coed basketball camp in Jackson. He was among a group of prominent black athletes who supported Muhammad Ali when Ali refused to enlist in the Vietnam War.

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