Respect, admiration, love pour in from across NBA as players react to Bill Russell passing

Boston Celtics - Bill Russell
Dick Raphael/NBAE via Getty Images

Bill Russell โ€” a Hall of Fame Celticsโ€™ player, coach, and, more importantly, civil rights icon โ€” 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.

โ€œBill Russell was a pioneer โ€“ as a player, as a champion, as the NBAโ€™s first Black head coach and as an activist,โ€ Michael Jordan said. โ€œHe 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.โ€

โ€œBill Russell was the greatest champion in all of team sports,โ€ NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. โ€œThe countless accolades that he earned for his storied career with the Boston Celtics โ€“ including a record 11 championships and five MVP awards โ€“ only begin to tell the story of Billโ€™s immense impact on our league and broader society.

โ€œBill 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 leagueโ€™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.

โ€œI cherished my friendship with Bill and was thrilled when he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. I often called him basketballโ€™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.โ€