Sports · August 4, 2022

Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and others react to Bill Russell’s legacy

Bill Russell had more NBA championship rings than his fingers and as many Most Valuable Player Awards as all other Boston Celtics players combined.

But in the hours after Russell’s family announced his death on Sunday, NBA players remembered him as so much more.

Legend. Pioneer. “Everything we all aspired to be,” said Detroit Pistons Hall of Fame point guard Isiah Thomas. in a post on Twitter.

Russell, 88, spent 13 seasons with the Celtics in the 1950s and 1960s, including three as a player manager. He was the NBA’s first black coach and was known for his civil rights activism during and after his playing days. He has remained visible throughout the NBA as a fan, mentor, and symbol of greatness. The final MVP trophy bears his name and he often attended games wearing a purple hat bearing the initials of one of his favorite players, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash in 2020.

Players of all generations of basketball greeted him on Sunday.

From the 1980s there was Thomas and another Hall of Fame point guard, Magic Johnson of the Lakers.

“Bill Russell was my idol” Johnson said on Twitterciting Russell’s basketball talent and position at the “forefront of the fight for social justice”.

He continued: “Despite all his achievements, he was so humble, a gentle giant, a very intelligent man, and he used his voice and platform to fight for blacks.”

Michael Jordan, who dominated the 90s with the Chicago Bulls, said in a statement that Russell was a “pioneer”.

“He paved the way and set an example for every black player who entered the league after him, including me,” Jordan said. “The world has lost a legend.”

Famous players of the 2000s also spoke of Russell with reverence and a warmth that showed the Celtics icon’s enduring influence in the league.

“I can go on all day about what you meant to me,” Paul Pierce, the Celtics Hall of Famer, said in a tweet.

Pierce also called Russell a “pioneer” and a “pioneer”. He also mentioned his “big laugh” and shared a photo of Russell talking to Pierce and other NBA players. “I’ll never forget this day when we were like children sitting around a campfire listening to your stories,” Pierce wrote.

Pau Gasol, whose Lakers faced Pierce twice in the final, shared a photo on Twitter about himself with Russell, calling him “one of the most dominant players in @NBA history”.

“I will always be honored to have met you,” he said.

Players of the 2010s and today have also emphasized Russell’s humor, activism and basketball prowess.

Noticing on Twitter that there was no 3-dot line or social media during Russell’s heyday, the Celtics look to Marcus Smart published a list of Russell’s hits.

“I just played and dominated on a day and in a league that was definitely not soft,” said Smart.

Smart’s teammate Jaylen Brown shared a photo Russell’s with Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jim Brown in 1967, when a group of black athletes showed support for Ali’s refusal to fight in the Vietnam War.

Calling Russell “one of the greatest athletes ever,” Brown She said: “Thank you for paving the way and inspiring so many. Today is a sad day but also a great day to celebrate his legacy and what he has stood for.”

In recent years, NBA players – Brown included – have more prominently carried Russell’s legacy of civil rights activism. Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul, who was the president of the players union during his social justice efforts after George Floyd’s murder in 2020, also published in Russell on Twitter Sunday.

“Just himself at all times !! The ultimate leader and happened to be one of the best hoopers ever! RIP Mr Russell, we will miss you very much, “he wrote.