‘We lost a giant’: Reactions pour in following the death of NBA great Bill Russell

BOSTON — The accolades are endless. His statue tries to encapsulate as many of them as possible, but there are so many more.

Yes, on the court, but off the court is where his legacy has really resonated with all the fans who gathered Sunday to pay tribute.

“I was like hey can we stop by so we can see the statue,” said Indria Thomas who was in town visiting from Texas.

There’s been a lot of conversations about the GOAT recently, but there’s only one who has more rings than Michael Jordan and LeBron James combined.

“As much as everybody goes crazy about the Patriots and all the championships they won, nobody can take the place of the Celtics and 11 championships,” said Danvers resident Sonny Friedstein. “I just want to give a shout-out to the last remaining. Bob Cousy, we love you, keep it going, and we all remember the whole team.”

Sonny Friedstein got to watch Bill Russell live, but the Celtics legend’s impact was so strong even those who weren’t born while he played felt the need to bring flowers to his statue.

“He just meant a lot to the game of basketball and the city of Boston,” said Melrose resident Matt Mancini as he dropped off flowers. “He had kind of a checkered past with the city, so I just felt like I had to do my part and come out here and pay my respects to the legend Bill Russell.”

That checkered past was part of the reason Russell didn’t get a statue until 2013, but then again, Russell didn’t necessarily even want it.

“Statues remind me of tombstones,” Russell said back then.

Now it’s the thing that his fans flocked to in his death.

“It was really what he did off the court,” said Thomas. “Leveling the field so Blacks cannot only play basketball, but also coach, and that was huge.”

Those same fans however want his statue in a better place, fit for a GOAT.

“I think he deserves a statue in the front of the Garden,” said Boston resident Michael Lasky.

“Bill Russell fought for every African-American but that statue, okay, there’s one for Bobby Orr right outside the Garden,” said Friedstein. “In my opinion, that’s where that belongs.”

Current and former Celtics players, NBA greats, and major dignitaries released statement’s on Russell’s death.

“Bill Russell is one of the greatest athletes in our history — an all-time champion of champions, and a good man and great American who did everything he could to deliver the promise of America for all Americans.” — President Joe Biden said.

“Today, we lost a giant. As tall as Bill Russell stood, his legacy rises far higher — both as a player and as a person.” — President Barack Obama said on Twitter.

“Thanku for being a trailblazer, pioneer Thanku for setting the bar, for ur kind words of wisdom, Thanku for that great laugh u had. I can go on all day about what u meant to me. Today is a sad day for the NBA family u will be forever missed #6″ — Celtics great Paul Pierce said on Twitter.

“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 ... may he rest in peace.” — Hall of Famer and Charlotte Hornets majority owner Michael Jordan said in a statement.

“R.I.P Bill Russell. You allowed me to be in the position I am in today and you changed not only the league but the world. Forever 6.” — Celtics player Grant Williams said on Twitter.

Download the FREE Boston 25 News app for breaking news alerts.

Follow Boston 25 News on Facebook and Twitter. | Watch Boston 25 News NOW

Comments on this article