Bill Russell, the NBA great who anchored a Boston Celtics dynasty that won 11 championships in 13 years
the last two as the first Black head coach in any major U.S. sport — and marched for civil rights with Martin Luther King Jr., died Sunday. He was 88.
Russell was awarded the Medal of Freedom by former President Barack Obama in 2011, the nation's highest civilian honor. And in 2017, the NBA awarded him with its Lifetime Achievement Award.
During his 13 years in Boston, he carried the Celtics to the NBA Finals 12 times, winning the championship 11 times, the last two titles won while as both a player and serving as the NBA's first Black coach.
President Joe Biden, in a statement released by the White House, praised Russell for his lifelong work in civil rights as well as in sports, and called him "a towering champion for freedom, equality, and justice."
The statement did not give the cause of death, but Russell, who had been living in the Seattle area, was not well enough to present the NBA Finals MVP trophy in June because of a long illness.
"Bill Russell is one of the greatest athletes in our history -- an all-time champion of champions, and a good man and great American who did everything he could to deliver the promise of America for all Americans," Biden said.
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