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

Bill Russell had more NBA championship rings than he ever had and several Most Valuable Player awards of all other Boston Celtics players combined.

But when Russell’s family announced his death on Sunday, NBA players remembered him even more.

legend. Trailblazer. “We aspire to be everything,” 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 player-coach. He was the first black coach in the NBA, and he was known for his civil rights activism during and after his playing days. He continues to appear around the NBA as a fan, mentor, and icon of greatness. The Finals MVP trophy is named after him, and he often attended games wearing a purple hat with the name of one of his favorite players, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash in 2020.

Basketball players across generations welcomed him on Sunday.

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

“Bill Russell was my idol,” Johnson said on TwitterCiting Russell’s basketball talent and position on the “frontline fighting for social justice”.

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

Michael Jordan, who dominated the 1990s with the Chicago Bulls, said in a statement that Russell was a “pioneer”.

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

Notable players from the 2000s also spoke of Russell with reverence and warmth, which showed the Celtics icon’s lasting influence in the league.

Celtics Hall of Famer Paul Pierce, “I could go on all day about what you mean to me,” said in a tweet,

Pierce also called Russell a “pioneer” and a “trailblazer”. He also mentioned his “great laugh” and shared a picture Talking with Russell Key Pierce and other NBA players. “I will never forget the day we sat around the campfire listening to your stories like kids sitting around the campfire,” Pierce wrote.

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

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

Players from the 2010s and present day also pointed to Russell’s humour, activism and basketball skills.

Noting on Twitter that there was no 3-point line or social media during Russell’s heyday, Celtics guard Marcus Smart posted a list About Russell’s achievements

“Just played and dominated in one day and a league that wasn’t soft,” Smart said.

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

call russellone of the greatest athletes,” brown ToldToday is a sad day to thank you for leading the way and inspiring so many, but also a great day to celebrate their legacy and what they stood for.

In recent years, NBA players — Browns included — have carried Russell’s legacy of civil rights activism more prominently. Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul, who was the players’ union president during their social justice efforts following the killing of George Floyd in 2020, also Posted about Russell on Twitter on Sunday.

“Illiterate myself all the time!! Happened to be the ultimate leader and one of the best hoppers ever! RIP Mister Russell, you will be sorely missed,” he wrote.

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