Celtics honours Bill Russell ahead of victory

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After retiring the No.6 of NBA icon Bill Russell the Boston Celtics honour the 11-time NBA champion ahead of their game against Philadelphia 76ers.

Ahead of the NBA opening game Boston Celtics celebrated the life and legacy of Bill Russell, the 11-time NBA champion and civil rights icon whose No. 6 was retired by the NBA in the wake of his death this summer.

Before Celtic’s 126-117 win over Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday the team gave their honour to the late Bill Russell.

“Bill Russell was a great man,” Celtics star Jaylen Brown said as part of a pregame ceremony honoring Russell. “But what did that mean? What defined his greatness? Who he was as a mentor, a father, a member of his community, most certainly his 11 championships here in Boston, both playing and coaching.

“But, undoubtedly, Bill Russell was a great man for what and who he stood for. During the peak of racial tensions in our society, he represented a type of nobility and honor that transcended sports. The amount of respect he receives from people will live on in eternity, and I’m grateful I was able to shake his hand. He was a true champion both on and off the court, and our gratitude is endless.

“I started off saying Bill Russell was a great man. Bill Russell was the greatest of men.”

The ceremony started about 15 minutes before the game and  tipped off with a video highlighting Russell’s career, followed by Brown’s speech and a spoken word poem by Boston’s poet laureate, Porsha Olayiwola.

A second video which was played featured not only his basketball accomplishments, but also his extensive work as a civil rights advocate, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom given to him by former USA President, Barack Obama in 2011.

Throughout the ceremony, individual spotlights shone on the No. 6 in the paint at both ends of the court — part of several tributes the Celtics will be paying to arguably the greatest figure in the league’s history, and one who towers over all sports here.

Later, fans honored Russell’s widow, Jeannine Russell, as she sat courtside and tearfully acknowledged a standing ovation during a timeout in the third quarter of the Celtics’ 126-117 win.


After the death of Russell in July, NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced that, beginning this season, his No. 6 would be retired across the league, giving Russell the same honor baseball gave another all-time great on and off the field: Dodgers legend Jackie Robinson.

“Bill Russell’s unparalleled success on the court and pioneering civil rights activism deserve to be honored in a unique and historic way,” Silver said then in a statement announcing the decision. “Permanently retiring his No. 6 across every NBA team ensures that Bill’s transcendent career will always be recognized.”



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