Athlete. Activist. Icon: Sports world pays tribute to NBA legend Bill Russell

Arash Madani takes a look at the extraordinary life and career of 11-time NBA champion and Hall of Famer Bill Russell.

On the court, Bill Russell was simply the greatest champion in NBA — and team sport — history. But more importantly, his impact off the court as an activist for civil rights and equality has spanned generations, and can still be felt today.

Russell marched with Martin Luther King Jr., supported Muhammad Ali and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama. The centrepiece of the Boston Celtics dynasty that won 11 championships in 13 years, Russell earned his last two NBA titles as a player-coach — the first Black coach in any major U.S. sport.

Russell died on Sunday at the age of 88. His family posted the news on social media, saying his wife, Jeannine, was by his side. The statement did not give the cause of death, but Russell was not well enough to present the NBA Finals MVP trophy in June due to a long illness.

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The world paid tribute and celebrated the life and legacy of one of the greatest and most impactful athletes in the history of sport.

-With files from the Associated Press

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