I’m saddened to hear the news of Bill Russell’s passing.
As a youth I’d always root against him whenever his Celtics played Wilt Chamberlain’s Philly teams, but I never doubted Russell’s superior skills as a defender, rebounder and all-around great player. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that he was an even greater human being, as he fought for racial equality and human rights, often in the face of vicious hostility.
And as for Wilt, I came to find out that the two of them were good friends later in life, despite a falling out that lasted a number of years.
When I moved to Seattle many years ago I discovered that he was already established in the community as a mentor to younger players and coaches. I never got to meet the man, though I’d see him once in a while at games and events around town. The closest I got was when I worked briefly for a company where he had an office. Unfortunately our paths never crossed. Just as well…I would have been tongue-tied if I ever did meet him.
What a player. What a man of substance. What a legend.
And I’ll never forget that laugh.
Rest well, Mr. Russell. You were a winner on and off the court.
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