Celtics legend Bill Russell, who won 11 championships in 13 seasons and is almost universally regarded as the best defensive player of all time, was named one of the 15 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Other recipients of the award this year include former president George W. Bush, Warren Buffett, Maya Angelou, Stan Musial, and Yo Yo Ma. Russell will be the first professional basketball player to receive the award.
Here is the statement the White House gave about Russell:
Bill Russell is the former Boston Celtics’ Captain who almost single-handedly redefined the game of basketball. Russell led the Celtics to a virtually unparalleled string of eleven championships in thirteen years and was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player five times. The first African American to coach in the NBA—indeed he was the first to coach a major sport at the professional level in the United States—Bill Russell is also an impassioned advocate of human rights. He marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and has been a consistent advocate of equality.