Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell died Sunday at the age of 88, his family confirmed. The 11-time NBA champion was a titan of the sports world and paved the way for the future after becoming the first black coach of any North American professional sports team, leading the Celtics to back-to-back championships in 1968 and 1969. .
Russell’s average rebounds per game in the playoffs of 24.9 during his 13-year career, where he notably won the NBA championship in all but two seasons, is a league record that stands to this day. .
“Bill Russell, the most prolific winner in American sports history, passed away peacefully today at age 88, with his wife, Jeannine, by his side. Bill’s wife, Jeannine, and their many friends and family thank you for keep Bill in your prayers,” said a statement.
He adds: “Perhaps you relive one or two of the golden moments he gave us, or remember his trademark laugh as he delighted in explaining the true story behind how those moments unfolded. And we hope that each of us can find a new way to act or speak with Bill’s uncompromising, dignified and always constructive commitment to principle. May we be one last and lasting victory for our beloved #6.”
Off the court, Russell championed the civil rights movement and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama in 2011, heralding him as “one who stood up for the rights and dignity of all men.”