Bill Russell — a Hall of Fame Celtics’ player, coach, and, more importantly, civil rights icon — has died at the age of 88.
The news shook the NBA world, and the love and admiration for Russell as a player and person poured out in statements as players took to social media to react to the news. The depth of feeling for the legend is evident. Here is just a sample of what was said and written.
Thank you for everything! R.I.P Legend 🙏🏽 pic.twitter.com/tn2iGsArav
— Jayson Tatum (@jaytatum0) July 31, 2022
— Jaylen Brown (@FCHWPO) July 31, 2022
— Jaylen Brown (@FCHWPO) July 31, 2022
“Bill Russell was a pioneer – as a player, as a champion, as the NBA’s first Black head coach and as an activist,” Michael Jordan said. “He paved the way and set an example for every Black player who came into the league after him, including me. The world has lost a legend. My condolences to his family and may he rest in peace.”
Thanku for being a trailblazer , pioneer Thanku for setting the bar , for ur kind words of wisdom, Thanku for that great laugh u had . I can go on all day about what u meant to me . Today is a sad day for the NBA family u will be forever missed #6
— Paul Pierce (@paulpierce34) July 31, 2022
12 time @NBA All-Star
11 NBA rings
No 3-point line
No social media
Just played and dominated in a day and a league that was def not soft. @celtics to the core ☘️
RIP @RealBillRussell 😢 #LEGENDARY pic.twitter.com/mG7K1AOfQq
— marcus smart (@smart_MS3) July 31, 2022
“Bill Russell was the greatest champion in all of team sports,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “The countless accolades that he earned for his storied career with the Boston Celtics – including a record 11 championships and five MVP awards – only begin to tell the story of Bill’s immense impact on our league and broader society.
“Bill stood for something much bigger than sports: the values of equality, respect and inclusion that he stamped into the DNA of our league. At the height of his athletic career, Bill advocated vigorously for civil rights and social justice, a legacy he passed down to generations of NBA players who followed in his footsteps. Through the taunts, threats and unthinkable adversity, Bill rose above it all and remained true to his belief that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity. For nearly 35 years since Bill completed his trailblazing career as the league’s first Black head coach, we were fortunate to see him at every major NBA event, including the NBA Finals, where he presented the Bill Russell Trophy to the Finals MVP.
“I cherished my friendship with Bill and was thrilled when he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. I often called him basketball’s Babe Ruth for how he transcended time. Bill was the ultimate winner and consummate teammate, and his influence on the NBA will be felt forever. We send our deepest condolences to his wife, Jeannine, his family and his many friends.”
Bill Russell was my idol. I looked up to him on the court and off. His success on the court was undeniable; he was dominate and great, winning 11 NBA championships. Off the court, Bill Russell paved the way for guys like me. pic.twitter.com/ZMIrEx8Tne
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) July 31, 2022
Bill Russell was the most powerful ambassador of the NBA. I held him in the highest regard and tried to build on the groundwork laid by him and his generation of players. Thank you, Bill, for leading the way and giving us such a high bar to shoot at.
— David Robinson (@DavidtheAdmiral) July 31, 2022
R.I.P Bill Russell. You allowed me to be in the position I am in today and you changed not only the league but the world. Forever 6.
— Grant Williams (@Grant2Will) July 31, 2022
The world lost a legend with the passing of Bill Russell. His impact on basketball and society will not be forgotten. He handled every adversity with dignity and grace, and walked away a champion. My condolences to his family and those blessed enough to call him a friend.
— Patrick Ewing (@CoachEwing33) July 31, 2022
Unapologetically himself at all times!! The ultimate leader and just happened to be one of the best hoopers ever! RIP Mr Russell, you will be dearly missed 🙏🏾🕊 pic.twitter.com/30xXhoGXsj
— Chris Paul (@CP3) July 31, 2022
A champion who revolutionized the game for all of us. Bill Russell was an inspiration to me in so many ways. May he Rest in Power.
— Carmelo Anthony (@carmeloanthony) July 31, 2022
This is a teary-eyed Sunday knowing that we lost a legendary human being @RealBillRussell His dedication to civil-rights, human-rights and the sport of basketball puts him beyond legendary status. That smile will be missed. pic.twitter.com/fmZSmFVkqp
— Robert Horry (@RKHorry) July 31, 2022
RIP to the Legend Bill Russell
— James Harden (@JHarden13) July 31, 2022
RIP Mr. Bill Russell.
A TRUE hero… pic.twitter.com/Eegq3wLhfC
— 🏁 Jamal Crawford (@JCrossover) July 31, 2022
Rest in peace Bill Russell you were everything we all aspired to be, your winning spirit will live forever my friend. Thank you for your words of wisdom. pic.twitter.com/rBjFS6nhzW
— Isiah Thomas (@IsiahThomas) July 31, 2022
Giddy kid. Known for being cantankerous at times, he made me feel welcomed to the NBA fraternity. You will always and forever be my number 1. Rest In Peace, Legend. #BillRussell
— Alex English (@AlexEnglish_2) July 31, 2022
R.I.P to the legend Bill Russell. 🤴🏿💫
— Rudy Gobert (@rudygobert27) July 31, 2022
Legends are forever.
RIP Bill Russell, truly a titan of our game. pic.twitter.com/EKpLABwzmT
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) July 31, 2022
A true legend on and off the court. RIP Bill Russell 🕊
— Karl-Anthony Towns (@KarlTowns) July 31, 2022
Rest In Peace Legend! 🙏🏽😞❤️ https://t.co/VhjGoIM8Ff
— Trae Young (@TheTraeYoung) July 31, 2022
One of the most dominant players in @NBA History. An 11 times NBA Champion and one of the best to have ever done it.
— Pau Gasol (@paugasol) July 31, 2022