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11-Time NBA Champion Bill Russell Dies at 88

The league and the nation have lost a great one.

NBA All-Star Press Conferences Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images

NBA legend Bill Russell has died at the age of 88. The news comes in a statement from Russell’s Twitter account Sunday morning.

It is with a very heavy heart we would like to pass along to all of Bill’s friends, fans, & followers:

Bill Russell, the most prolific winner in American sports history, passed away peacefully today at age 88, with his wife, Jeannine, by his side. Arrangements for his memorial service will be announced soon.

Russell won 11 NBA championships with the Boston Celtics during his 13-year NBA career from 1956 to 1969. He averaged 15.1 points and 22.5 rebounds per game throughout his 13 seasons, garnering 12 All-Star selections and five MVP awards. The NBA Finals MVP award is named in his honor and he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975.

After retiring from the NBA as a player, Russell became the first black head coach in NBA history. He led the the Seattle Supersonics to two playoff appearances during his tenure (1973-1977) and coached the Sacramento Kings (1987-1988). He also worked as an NBA broadcaster in the 70s and 80s.

Along with his accomplishments on the court, the statement released on social media noted Russell’s great work as a civil rights activist.

But for all the winning, Bill’s understanding of the struggle is what illuminated his life. From boycotting a 1961 exhibition game to unmask too-long-tolerated discrimination, to leading Mississippi’s first integrated basketball camp in the combustible wake of Medgar [Evers’] assassination, to decades of activism ultimately recognized by his receipt of the Presidential Medal of Freedom ... Bill called out injustice with an unforgiving candor that he intended would disrupt the status quo, and with a powerful example that, though never his humble intention, will forever inspire teamwork, selflessness and thoughtful change.

In 2011, President Barack Obama awarded Russell the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. In 2017, the NBA awarded him with its Lifetime Achievement Award.