Bill Russell, Hall of Famer and Celtics icon, dies at age 88

Basketball Hall of Famer, Celtics icon and civil rights pioneer Bill Russell has died at the age of 88.

On Sunday, July 31, Russell’s family shared the news in a statement via Twitter, sharing that “Bill Russell, the most prolific winner in American sports history, passed away peacefully today at age 88, with his wife, Jeannine, by his side.”

Russell, who was selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the 1956 NBA Draft, is one of the most decorated athletes in the history of team sports and a pioneer in sports, culture and civil rights.

BOSTON RUSHMORE: Russell’s legacy extends far beyond court

Over the course of his 13-year playing career, Russell won 11 NBA championships, won five MVP awards, was named to 12 All-Star games and earned 11 All-NBA selections.

In 1966, Russell transitioned into a player-coach role, becoming the first-ever Black coach in NBA history. As a player-coach, Russell led the Celtics to two of his 11 championships before retiring as a champion in 1969.

After retiring from the NBA, Russell maintained his role as one of the NBA’s most iconic figures, spending time on the sidelines as a coach, on the broadcast booth and as a fixture at league events.

Russell was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975, named to the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players in 1996, was given the NBA’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019 and was named to the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team in 2021.

As the greatest champion in NBA history, Russell’s legacy lives on through the NBA Finals MVP Award, which was renamed in his honor in 2009.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver had this to say in a statement on Russell’s passing:

Bill Russell career achievements, accolades


  • 2x NCAA champion (1955, 1956)
  • 2x Consensus First-Team All-American (1955, 1956)
  • 1955 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player


  • 11x NBA champion (1957, 1959-1966, 1968, 1969)
  • 5x MVP (1958, 1961-63, 1965)
  • 12x NBA All-Star (1958-1969)
  • 11x All-NBA 
  • 4x NBA rebounding champion
  • NBA anniversary team (25th, 35th, 50th, 75th)
  • NBA Lifetime Achievement Award (2019)
  • Bill Russell Trophy is awarded to NBA Finals MVP
  • No. 6 retired by Celtics
  • Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (1975)

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