Who was Bill Russell, legend of the Celtics and sports in the USA?

(CNN) — Basketball player Bill Russell, 11-time NBA champion with the Boston Celtics and American sports legend, died on Sunday, according to his family.

Here’s a glimpse into Russell’s lifeHall of Fame frontrunner who paved the way for future generations to grow up in basketball and sports in general.

Bill Russell Personal Information

  • Date of birth: February 12, 1934
  • Place of birth: Monroe, Louisiana
  • Birth name: William Felton Russel
  • Father: Charles Russell
  • Mother: Katie (King) Russell
  • Marriages: Jeannine Fiorito (2016-present); Marilyn Nault (1996-January 2009, her death); Dorothy “Didi” Anstett (1977-1980, divorced); Rose Swisher (1956-1973, divorced)
  • Children with Rose Swisher: Karen, William Jr. “Buda”, and Jacob
  • Education: University of San Francisco, BA, 1956

Data and achievements

  • 1.80 meter pivot known for his defense and ability to block shots.
  • He won 11 NBA championships during his 13 years with the Boston Celtics in 1957, 1959-66 and 1968-69.
  • Five times NBA Most Valuable Player in 1958, 1961-63 and 1965.
  • Twelve-time NBA All-Star from 1958 to 1969 and MVP All-Star in 1963.
  • He was a commentator for televised basketball games between his coaching jobs.
  • Founder and Emeritus Board Member of MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership.
  • Younger brother of playwright Charlie L. Russell.


1955 and 1956 – He led the San Francisco Dons to two NCAA basketball championships and an undefeated season in 1956.

April 29, 1956 – Selected second in the NBA draft by the St. Louis Hawks, then traded to the Boston Celtics.

November 1956 – Captain of the United States men’s basketball team that won gold at the Melbourne Olympics.

December 1956-1969 – Boston Celtics center.

1966-1969 – He worked as a player-coach for the Boston Celtics, making him the first African-American coach in the NBA.

1973-1977 – Head coach and general manager of the Seattle SuperSonics.

1975 – Russell was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, but did not attend the ceremony.

November 1987-1988 – Sacramento Kings head coach.

2001 – A memoir and motivational book is published: “Russell Rules: 11 Lessons on Leadership from the Twentieth Century’s Greatest Winner.”

February 2009 – NBA Commissioner David Stern announces that the Finals MVP trophy will be renamed the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award.

February 2011 – Receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

October 2011 – He joins other gamers in a class action lawsuit against the NCAA, Electronic Arts and Collegiate Licensing Company for using his footage in a video game without permission or compensation.

October 16, 2013 – He is arrested for bringing a loaded .38 caliber Smith & Wesson pistol to Sea-Tac International Airport in Seattle. He receives a state citation and is released.

November 1, 2013 – A bronze statue of Russell is unveiled in Boston’s City Hall Square. The statue is erected by the Bill Russell Legacy Project, which also developed the Bill Russell Mentoring Grant Program.

July 17, 2014 – He was briefly hospitalized after collapsing on stage during a speech near Lake Tahoe, Nevada. Celtics officials later said Russell was feeling better and should return to Seattle later in the day.

August 8, 2014 – A federal judge rules in favor of Russell and other college athletes who have sued to end NCAA control over rights to names, likenesses and likenesses of college athletes.

July 2015 – A federal judge approves the final $60 million settlement resulting from lawsuits filed by Russell and other college athletes. The Collegiate Licensing Company and Electronic Arts case settles for $40 million and the NCAA case settles for $20 million, as agreed in 2014.

May 18, 2018 – He was rushed to hospital from his home in Seattle for dehydration. Russell is released the next day.

November 15, 2019 – In a private ceremony, he accepts his 1975 Basketball Hall of Fame ring. Russell tweets that he “refused to be the first black player” to have this honor and mentions that Chuck Cooper was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Fame in September 2019.

September 12, 2021 – He is inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a coach. Russell’s winning record as an NBA head coach is 341-290 in the regular season and 34-27 in the playoffs.

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