Before there was Michael Jordan, before there was LeBron James, there was Bill Russell, one of the greatest to ever play the game of basketball.
There may be those who scored more than the Boston Celtics center, but where Russell was and still is unmatched is as a champion. A superb rebounder and defensive tactician, he led his college team to back-to-back national titles, then took the Celtics to 11 championships in 13 years.
Russell was a trail blazer on the court and off. When he entered the NBA in 1956, he was one of only five Black players in the league. He became the NBA’s first Black head coach. He also was a lifelong champion of civil rights, using his sports celebrity to speak out for racial justice and fairness.
Russell, who died Sunday at 88, opened the door for many. He was a remarkable athlete and person.
Tim Kalich is editor and publisher of The Greenwood Commonwealth.