Bill Russell — the 11-time NBA champion who was the anchor and heart of a Boston Celtics team that dominated an era — spent a brief time in the hospital Saturday with a heart scare.
Russell, 84, was rushed to the hospital Friday night with what was thought to be a heart attack or other heart issue, something first reported by TMZ. Representatives of Russell later said the issue was dehydration.
Russell was out of the hospital a few hours later and tweeted this out.
Good to see him out and in good spirits.
Russell’s name comes up in any serious conversation for greatest player of all-time, starting with those 11 rings. However, that is just a part of what he did on the court. He was a defensive force that changed the game with his shot blocking — nobody had done that aggressively or above the rim before. His legendary competitive focus led Russell to be a five-time MVP, an 11-time All-NBA player, a 12-time All-Star, a Hall of Famer, and maybe the greatest Celtic ever.
Yet his basketball accomplishments were not as significant as what he did off the court.
Russell battled racism his entire career. It started when he led the University of San Francisco to back-to-back NCAA titles in 1955 and 1956 — he was the first black man to captain and lead a team to college titles (he and future Celtic and Hall of Famer K.C. Jones were on that team, one light years ahead of the competition at the time). Russell entered the NBA during an era when black athletes were expected to look the other way at racism — something Russell refused to do. Often on road trips, Russell and his fellow African-American teammates had to stay in a different hotel than his white teammates. Russell was not afraid to call it out.
President Barack Obama awarded Russell the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the highest honor an American civilian can receive). Boston put a statue up of Russell in City Hall Plaza in 2011