NBA community and others react to death of Hall of Famer Bill Russell

·6 min read
Bill Russell, left, of the Boston Celtics is shown as he holds his coach Red Auerbach under the shower.
Boston Celtics star Bill Russell is shown as he holds his coach Red Auerbach under the shower after they defeated the Lakers 95-93 to win their eighth straight NBA championship at the Boston Garden on April 28, 1966. (Associated Press)

NBA legend and Hall of Famer Bill Russell died Sunday at the age of 88. A cause of death wasn’t given, nor did a family statement say where he died.

The former Boston Celtics center was professional basketball's first Black superstar, winning 11 championships and five MVPs during his career, which included becoming the first Black head coach of a major pro sports team.

Athletes and celebrities around the world shared their thoughts and highlighted Russell's career and work as a player, coach and advocate for civil rights and social justice:

Current Celtic players Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart, Lakers great Magic Johnson and tennis legend Billie Jean King all also shared their condolences and memories of Russell.

Jayson Tatum: "Thank you for everything! R.I.P. Legend 🙏"

Michael Jordan: "Bill Russell was a pioneer — as a player, as a champion, as the NBA's first Black head coach and as an activist. He paved the way and set an example for every Black player who came into the league after him, including me. The world has lost a legend. My condolences to his family and may he rest in peace."

Jaylen Brown: "Rest In Peace 🕊️ thank you for paving the way and inspiring so many Today is a sad day but also great day to celebrate his legacy and what he stood for 💚"

Charles Barkley: "Bill Russell's passing is not just an NBA loss, it is a world loss. When your actions match your words on important issues, you are a great man, not just a great basketball player. The word 'hero' is tossed around a lot, but today it is perfect. RIP GREAT MAN BR."

Marcus Smart: "12 time @NBA All-Star 11 NBA rings 5 MVPs No 3-point line No social media Just played and dominated in a day and a league that was def not soft. @celtics to the core ☘️ RIP @RealBillRussell 😥 #LEGENDARY"

Magic Johnson: "I’m heartbroken to hear about the passing of the greatest winner the game of basketball has ever seen, a legend, hall of famer, mentor and my friend for over 30 years, Bill Russell. 💔"

Billie Jean King: "Bill Russell was a once-in-a-generation activist athlete who made all around him better. He had a career of firsts & led the way for many. I admired him my entire life & he had a huge influence on my career. He was the ultimate leader, ultimate team player & ultimate champion."

Scottie Pippen: "Bill Russell was the epitome of a champion, in every sense of the word. He was an innovator who broke through barriers and for all of his extraordinary successes on the court, he was just as impactful off of it. Bill faced and overcame adversities and obstacles, and those triumphs would benefit not just future generations of NBA players, but all modern athletes of color. What a life, what a legacy. My condolences to his wife, family, friends and everyone else whose life he touched."

Ronnie Lott: "The most dominant champion of all time. His battles against Wilt were like watching heavyweights working in the gym. Heart, determination, courage on, and off, the court. All our respect and love is with his family. Peace."

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: "Bill Russell was the quintessential big man — not because of his height but because of the size of his heart. In basketball he showed us how to play with grace and passion. In life he showed us how to live with compassion and joy. He was my friend. My mentor. My role model. RIP my friend ... my deepest condolences to his family."

James Worthy: "Was an absolute honor to spend time with #BillRussell. He was a walking encyclopedia. I remember him quoting once — 'Basketball is what I do for a living, but it's not necessarily who I am.' His legacy will NEVER be forgotten!"

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.