"géant", "pionnier", "légende"... Les hommages se multiplient pour Bill Russell, champion mythique de la NBA et militant des droits civiques

“géant”, “pionnier”, “légende”… Les hommages se multiplient pour Bill Russell, champion mythique de la NBA et militant des droits civiques

He was for his family “the most prolific winner in American sports history” and for former President Barack Obama “a giant” : Bill Russell, crowned eleven-time NBA champion with the Celtics and civil rights defender, died on Sunday July 31.

The NBA, and American sport more broadly, has lost one of its legends. His record is impressive and will probably never be equaled: in thirteen seasons in the NBA, all under the green jersey of the Boston Celtics, Russell won eleven league titles, a record that still stands, including eight in a row from 1959 to 1966. He was also the first black American appointed to head a franchise of an American professional sport and the first to be crowned, in his second year (1967), at the head of “his” Celtics.

It is also outside the basketball courts that Russell became a figure in American society, which earned him in 2011, from the hands of Barack Obama, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest American civilian honor. .

“Today we lost a giant”reacted to the announcement of his death the former American president. “On the court, he was the greatest champion in basketball history. Off the court, he was a civil rights pioneer, marching with Dr. (Martin Luther) King and standing next to Muhammad Ali. For decades Bill endured name-calling and harassment, but that never stopped him from standing up for what was right. I learned so much from his way of playing, his way of coaching and his way of living his life.”added Barack Obama.

“America’s promise is that we are all created equal and deserve to be treated the same throughout our lives. We have never fully delivered on that promise, but Bill Russell made sure that we never give up”also praised current President Joe Biden, in a statement.

Born in 1934 in Louisiana, in a Deep South still living under a regime of racial discrimination, before moving with his family to California in the 1940s, Russell used his notoriety to advance the cause of civil rights.

In 1963, he participated in Martin Luther King’s March on Washington. “From his childhood in segregated Louisiana to his career in the biggest gyms, during the height of the civil rights movement, Bill faced racist hostility and hatred, rooted in every aspect of American life. Yet he never gave up. Throughout his life, he forced us to face hard truths.”underlined Joe Biden.

The NBA paid tribute to the “greatest champion of any team sport”. “Bill stood for something much bigger than sport: the values ​​of equality, respect and inclusion that he inscribed in our league’s DNA”NBA boss Adam Silver said in a statement.

Current Celtics players also paid tribute to him. “You changed not only the league but the world”tweeted Grant Williams, while Jaylen Brown posted a message thanking Bill Russell “for leading the way and inspiring so many people”.

“Bill Russell was my idol”, reacted for his part the former leader of the Los Angeles Lakers Magic Johnson. “He was one of the first sportsmen to fight on the front lines for social justice, fairness, equality and civil rights.” Star Michael Jordan hailed “pioneer”who “paved the way and set an example for all black players who entered the league after him, including me”. “The world lost a legend with the passing of Bill Russell. His impact on basketball and society will not be forgotten.”said former New York Knicks center Patrick Ewing.

While the date of his funeral has not yet been set, his family hoped that “each of us finds ways to speak and act Bill’s way, without compromise, with dignity and an always constructive approach.”

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