The NBA world shattered on Sunday after the news broke that Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell had passed away at the age of 88. Tributes poured in on social media, including one from New York Knicks’ Patrick Ewing.
Russell won 11 championships with the Celtics during his 13 years in the league, labeling him as the greatest winner in the history of the game.
However, he’s also known for the work that he did off the court. Russell was a human rights activist who fought for racial equality both in and outside of the professional sports world.
In 1961, two of his Black teammates were refused service at a hotel cafe in Kentucky before a preseason game, which resulted in the first boycotting of a game due to a civil rights protest. Russell also marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in the March on Washington in 1963. In 1966 while he was still playing, Russell became the first Black NBA coach and is the only player-coach to have won an NBA title.
During All-Star weekend in 2009, it was announced that the NBA Finals MVP trophy would be renamed the ‘Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award.’
The impact that Russell left on both the NBA and the country will never fade.
Knicks’ Patrick Ewing posts tribute on Twitter to Celtics legend Bill Russell
Shortly after Russell’s family posted the news on Twitter, Patrick Ewing responded with a tweet of his own:
New York’s current starting center Mitchell Robinson reacted to the news on Twitter as well:
The void that Russell’s left behind cannot be replaced. Up until the start of COVID-19, he attended the NBA Finals to hand out the coveted MVP trophy that was named after him. After the Toronto Raptors won in 2019, Russell was on hand to deliver the MVP trophy to Kawhi Leonard, who was the last player to receive the trophy from Russell himself.
Russell might’ve been the face of the Celtics dynasty, but even Knicks fans can appreciate all that he did for the sport. Thank you, Bill Russell.