Bill Russell – one of the greatest players in the history of the NBA – has died at the age of 88. The legendary Boston Celtics center passed away peacefully with his wife by his side.
The announcement of Russell's death was made on social media.
"It is with a very heavy heart we would like to pass along to all of Bill's friends, fans and 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," the announcement read.
Russell was the rock of the Boston Celtics dynasty of the 1950s and 1960s.
Russell took home five MVP awards in his illustrious career and made 12 All-Star games.
ESPN noted, "During his 13 years in Boston, he carried the Celtics to the NBA Finals 12 times, winning the championship 11 times. The one year the Celtics lost, in 1958 to the St. Louis Hawks, the series was tied 2-2 when Russell got hurt and was hospitalized. The Celtics lost the next two games by a total of three points."
The NBA Finals MVP is named after Russell.
He also won two NCAA championships at the University of San Francisco, where he was named a two-time All-American player.
Russell won an Olympic gold medal with the United States basketball team in 1956.
The Celtics legend was awarded the Medal of Freedom by former President Barack Obama in 2011.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver called Russell "the greatest champion in all of team sports" in a statement released on Sunday.
Bill Russell was the greatest champion in all of team sports. The countless accolades that he earned for his storied career with the Boston Celtics – including a record 11 championships and five MVP awards – only begin to tell the story of Bill’s immense impact on our league and broader society.
Bill 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 league’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.
I cherished my friendship with Bill and was thrilled when he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. I often called him basketball’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.
"Arrangements for his memorial service will be announced soon," according to the statement from Russell's family.