Celtics pay tribute to ‘true champion’ Bill Russell ahead of Game 1

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BOSTON — Before the Celtics open the 2022-23 NBA season against the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night at TD Garden, the franchise celebrated the life and legacy of 11-time NBA champion and rights icon Bill Russell civics whose number 6 was permanently retired by the NBA following his death this summer.

“Bill Russell was a great man,” Celtics star Jaylen Brown said at a pre-game ceremony honoring Russell. “But what did that mean? What defined his greatness? Who was he as a mentor, a father, a member of his community, most definitely his 11 championships here in Boston, both in as a player and coach.

“But, without a doubt, Bill Russell was a great man for what and for whom he stood for. At the height of racial tensions in our society, he represented a type of nobility and honor that transcended sport. The respect that he receives people will live in eternity, and I am grateful to have been able to shake his hand. He was a true champion both on and off the court, and our gratitude is endless.

“I started by saying that Bill Russell was a great man. Bill Russell was the greatest of men.”

The ceremony began about 15 minutes before the start of Tuesday night’s game with a video highlighting Russell’s career, followed by Brown’s speech and a spoken poem by Boston Poet Laureate Porsha Olayiwola.

A second video was then released, showcasing not only his basketball accomplishments, but also his extensive work as a civil rights advocate, including his being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from the President. Barack Obama in 2011 – a video released about an artist’s performance. Aloe Blacc.

Throughout the ceremony, individual spotlights shone on the No. 6 in the paint at both ends of the pitch – part of several tributes the Celtics will pay to arguably the greatest figure in league history, and the one that dominates all sports here. .

Fans later paid their respects to Russell’s widow, Jeannine Russell, as she sat pitchside and tearfully gave a standing ovation during a third-quarter timeout in the 126-117 win. of the Celtics.

Following Russell’s death in July at the age of 88, NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced that beginning this season, his number 6 would be retired league-wide, giving Russell the same honor. that baseball has given another all-time great on and off the field. : Dodgers legend Jackie Robinson.

“Bill Russell’s unprecedented success on the court and pioneering civil rights activism deserve to be honored in a unique and historic way,” Silver said in a statement announcing the decision at the time. “Permanently retiring his number 6 on all NBA teams ensures that Bill’s transcendent career will always be recognized.”

In addition to the jersey retirement – ​​which hasn’t impacted players already wearing number 6, including Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James – all NBA players will wear a commemorative shoulder patch. right of their shirt during the 2022-23 season. , and each pitch will display a cloverleaf logo with Russell’s number 6 on the sideline near the scorer’s table.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.


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