Michael Jordan makes statement on the passing of NBA legend Bill Russell

Bill Russell, Michael Jordan (Photo by JEFF HAYNES/AFP via Getty Images)
Bill Russell, Michael Jordan (Photo by JEFF HAYNES/AFP via Getty Images) /

From this day on, July 31 will be a somber day for NBA fans as it marks the passing of NBA legend and activist Bill Russell. His family shared the news that he went peacefully in the night at 88 years old, leaving behind a legacy that will endure an even longer amount of time.

Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan elected to offer a few words after having some time to reflect on the tragic news. Although these two are each one of the greatest to ever pick up a basketball, Jordan and Russell each lived out vastly different lives. Born in a different generation, MJ was able to stand on the shoulders of Russell’s greatness to ultimately achieve the heights he did both as a professional and as a person.

Jordan’s statement was initially reported on by Shams Charania of The Athletic. Here’s the full quote regarding what Michael had to say about the impact Russell had on him, the NBA, and the world:

"“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 many he rest in peace.”"

Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan makes a statement regarding the immense impact NBA legend Bill Russell had on basketball and the world in general.

As an 11-time NBA champion and 5-time MVP, Russell left his mark on the game and cemented himself as a top 10 player in the history of the league. In 13 seasons with the Boston Celtics, Russell led his team to the single-most dominant stretch of basketball any team will ever experience.

Even against other greats of his era such as Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, and Jerry West, no one was a proven winner like Russell. Even when he left American soil to win an Olympic gold medal in Australia, he was a winner. Even when he left the basketball court behind to fight for the advancement of civil rights, he was a winner.

Among his most important accomplishments, Russell was the first black head coach of any North American professional sports team. Paving the way for so many other greats after him, Russell won a pair of championships as the head coach of his Celtics team.

What’s most interesting about the three years he coached Boston, is that he did it while still actively playing a large role for the Celtics. He averaged over 40 minutes per game during that three-year span while still actively managing a championship-caliber team at the same time.

It’s easy to see why a notorious competition like Jordan would find inspiration from such an accomplished legend like Russell. Fortunately, by the time Michael rose to stardom, people like Bill had already completed the hard fight to normalize black men expanding their talents outside of the 15-by-28 meter dimensions of a basketball court.

Without Russell’s contributions to basketball and the greater world, it’s hard to say if Jordan ever becomes the worldwide phenomenon that we all know him as today. It’s impossible to know if the shoes ever take off, if we all wanted to “Be Like Mike”, or if we ever get to see Bugs Bunny and company take to the court in Space Jam.

Thank you Bill Russell, for furthering the game of basketball and fostering an environment where the Michael Jordans of the world can thrive; may you rest in peace.

Next. Remembering the time when MJ almost joined the Celtics. dark