Bill Russell: Hall of Famer and civil rights icon

Give them their flowers while they are alive, and as often as you can, especially when it comes to someone like Bill Russell. The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has made Russell one of its headlining Class of 2021 inductees, and his civil rights legacy will also be at the top of his many accolades.

Russell has already been inducted into the Hall of Fame as a player in 1974 and is now entering as a coach.  Both are well-deserved.

Russell was the foundation of the Boston Celtics’ rule in the 1960s. He is a five-time NBA Most Valuable Player and a 12-time All-Star with 21,620 career rebounds. Russell was known by many as the greatest basketball player of all time until the rise of Michael Jordan in the 1980s.

William Felton Russell was born on February 12, 1934 in Monroe, Louisiana. He moved to San Francisco and attended McClymonds High School in Oakland. Though he was an average player at McClymonds, he earned a scholarship to the University of San Francisco due to his size.

Russell, standing slightly over 6-feet-9, thrived at the University of San Francisco, where he led Dons to 56 consecutive wins and NCAA championships in 1955 and 1956. In 1955, Russell was named the NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player.

Celtics coach and general manager, Red Auerbach traded with the St. Louis Hawks to get Russell on his team. Russell was a dominant force on defense and rebounds, which the Celtics desperately needed.

In a league where the winning depended on offensive strategies, Russell changed professional basketball with his defensive prowess. He intimidated players with blocked shots and proved that it didn’t take a shooter to win a game.  Russell revolutionized the way the game was played and led the Boston Celtics to 11 NBA championships.

Auerbach retired after another championship in the 1965-66 season, and Russell became the player-coach for the following season. It was then that he became the first African American coach in the league. After the Celtics won their 11th championship, Russell retired and resurfaced as a coach for other NBA teams.

While Russell revolutionized basketball, his greatest impact is his fight for racial justice in America throughout his playing career.  Russell was a star in the NBA during the era of Jim Crow – laws designed to marginalize African Americans by denying them education, the right to vote and employment.

In 1961, Russell led a player protest refusing to play after several Black players on the Boston Celtics were refused service at the Phoenix Hotel coffee shop in Lexington, Kentucky, while they were in town to play the St. Louis Hawks. Russell convinced the Black players on the Hawks and Celtics team to protest.

In 1963, Russell stood alongside Dr. Martin Luther King in the March on Washington and in 1967, he joined NFL stars Jim Brown and Bobby Mitchell, Lew Alcindor (now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and others in support of Muhammad Ali’s refusal to be drafted for the Vietnam war.

“It is the first time in four centuries that the American Negro can create his own history,” Russell wrote in the 1960s. “To be part of this is one of the most significant things that can happen.”

Today, Black athletes credit Russell with giving them courage to stand for social justice.

“Because of you, it is okay to be an activist and an athlete,” Celtics guard Jaylen Brown said in a recent tribute video to Russell.  “Because of you, kids that look like you believe that they can win. Because of you, there is a standard for being a human being and being an athlete. Because of you, it is okay to be more than just a basketball player. Because of you, I am proud to be a Celtic.”

Another shining achievement came in 2011 when former U.S. President Barack Obama awarded Russell with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, describing him as “someone who stood up for the rights and dignity of all men.”

Latest Articles


Search our archive of past issues Receive our Latest Updates
* indicates required

October 16, 2023, HOUSTON, TX – Congressional Candidate Amanda Edwards has raised over $1 million in less than 4 months, a substantial sum that helps bolster the frontrunner status of the former At-Large Houston City Council Member in her bid for U.S. Congress. Edwards raised over $433,000 in Q3 of 2023. This strong Q3 report expands on a successful Q2 where Edwards announced just 11 days after declaring her candidacy that she had raised over $600,000. With over $829,000 in cash-on-hand at the end of the September 30th financial reporting period, Edwards proves again that she is the clear frontrunner in the race. “I am beyond grateful for the strong outpouring of support that will help me to win this race and serve the incredible people of the 18th Congressional District,” said Edwards. “We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s trajectory, and we need to send servant leaders to Congress who can deliver the results the community deserves. The strong support from our supporters will help us to cultivate an 18th Congressional District where everyone in it can thrive.” Edwards said. “Amanda understands the challenges that the hard-working folks of the 18th Congressional District face because she has never lost sight of who she is or where she comes from; she was born and raised right here in the 18th Congressional District of Houston,” said Kathryn McNiel, spokesperson for Edwards’ campaign. Edwards has been endorsed by Higher Heights PAC, Collective PAC, Krimson PAC, and the Brady PAC. She has also been supported by Beto O’Rourke, among many others. About Amanda: Amanda is a native Houstonian, attorney and former At-Large Houston City Council Member. Amanda is a graduate of Eisenhower High School in Aldine ISD. Edwards earned a B.A. from Emory University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. Edwards practiced law at Vinson & Elkins LLP and Bracewell LLP before entering public service. Edwards is a life-long member of St. Monica Catholic Church in Acres Homes. For more information, please visit

As September 13th rolls around, we extend our warmest birthday wishes to the creative powerhouse, Tyler Perry, a man whose indomitable spirit and groundbreaking work have left an indelible mark on the world of entertainment. With his multifaceted talents as an actor, playwright, screenwriter, producer, and director, Tyler Perry has not only entertained but also inspired audiences worldwide, particularly within the African-American community, where his influence and role have been nothing short of powerful. Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1969, Tyler Perry’s journey to stardom was a path riddled with adversity. Raised in a turbulent household, he found refuge in writing, using it as a therapeutic outlet. This period of introspection gave rise to one of his most iconic creations, Madea, a vivacious, no-nonsense grandmother who would later become a beloved figure in Perry’s works, offering a unique blend of humor and profound life lessons. Despite facing numerous challenges, including rejection and financial struggles, Perry’s determination and unwavering belief in his abilities propelled him forward. In 1992, he staged his first play, “I Know I’ve Been Changed,” which, although met with limited success, was a pivotal moment in his career. Unfazed by initial setbacks, Perry continued to hone his craft, and by 1998, he had successfully produced a string of stage plays that showcased his storytelling prowess.

Calling all teenage student-athletes! If you have dreams of playing college soccer and wish to represent an HBCU, the HBCU ID Camp is your golden opportunity. From 8 am to 5 pm on November 11-12, Houston Sports Park will transform into a hub for aspiring male and female soccer players. Coaches from HBCUs across the nation will be present to evaluate, scout, and offer valuable feedback. Moreover, they might even spot the next soccer prodigy to join their collegiate soccer programs. This camp is not just about honing your soccer skills but also a chance to connect with the HBCU soccer community. You’ll learn the ins and outs of what it takes to excel on the field and in the classroom, which is crucial for a college athlete. The HBCU ID Camp is an excellent platform to network with coaches, learn from experienced athletes, and take the first steps toward your college soccer journey. To secure your spot at this incredible event, don’t forget to register [here](insert registration link). Space is limited to 120 participants, so make sure to reserve your place before it’s too late. It’s time to turn your dreams of playing college soccer into a reality.

Scroll to Top