Feb 16, 2011, 9:55 AM EDT
Bill Russell is a legend.
A legend in a way we so rarely see athletes be anymore — a powerful force off the court for his beliefs as well as on it. Today taking a stand might get in the way of endorsement deals, so most players (particularly elite ones) steer clear of controversial topics.
Not Bill Russell. And that’s why President Barack Obama gave him the Medal of Freedom Tuesday. It’s the highest civilian award the president can bestow.
A. Sherrod Blakely of Comcast New England collected quotes from a variety of people about Russell, talking about the man, not just the basketball player.
“It’s so well-deserved,” (NBA Commissioner David) Stern told CSNNE.com. “Not just as an athlete, but a fighter for the rights for all in America. It was thrilling to be here.”
“The best I can say is it’s a great honor that they recognize the man that he is,” (NFL legend Jim) Brown told CSNNE.com. “But I already knew. If I had to wait until this day to know that, I’d be in terrible shape.”
“When I think of Russell, I think of transcending,” (Celtic Kevin) Garnett said. “If you take Bill Russell out, the young bigs don’t exist. You know, if you take someone out of history a lot of us are not even here. Not only did he transcend on the court, but off the court. Being pro-righteous in what he believed in and speaking up and standing up for that right. Different times back in the day, you know?”
“He’s so funny and interesting because he’ll tell you a story, and he’s got a lot of stories,” (Celtic Ray) Allen said. “No matter if the story is funny or not, he’s going to laugh and since he laughs you laugh and it ends up being a great story he told. I’ve always enjoyed talking to him because I always walk away with a laugh.”
“Bill Russell, the man, is someone who stood up for the rights and dignity of all men,” said Obama. “He marched with (Dr. Martin Luther) King; he stood by (Muhammed) Ali. When a restaurant refused to serve the black Celtics, he refused to play in the scheduled game. He endured insults and vandalism, but he kept on focusing on making the teammates who he loved better players, and made possible the success of so many who would follow.”
- PBT’s NBA Power Rankings: Cream rising to top as playoffs near 7
- Report: Patrick Beverley out for rest of season, including playoffs 3
- Breaking down Western Conference playoff chase with two weeks left in season 6
- Breaking down Eastern Conference playoff chase with two weeks left in season 6
- Five Things We Learned in NBA Sunday: Dwyane Wade is going to will Heat into playoffs 13
- Sad news: Craig Sager announces his cancer has returned 16
- NBA players’ union head believes new labor deal can be reached without a work stoppage 11
- Kendrick Perkins says you’re blowing the LeBron James/Kevin Love thing way out of proportion 23