Bill Russell, an 11-time NBA champion who spent most of his formative years in the Bay Area and won two NCAA tournament championships at the University of San Francisco (USF), died peacefully on Sunday at the age of 88.
Russell leaves a huge legacy as one of the greatest basketball players of all time and a key figure in the civil rights movement.
He almost didn’t take the typical path to sports fame. Stars like LeBron James can be defined as transcendent generational talents from an early age, but colleges paid little attention to Russell, overlooking the hooper from Oakland who moved to the city with his family when he was eight. He only played varsity basketball his senior year at McClymonds High School, after spending his junior year on the JV team.
“Bill Russell helped put USF on the map in the 1950s,” said current university president Rev. Paul J. Fitzgerald. “We are grateful not only for his many contributions to our community, the athletic department, and Jesuit education but also for his courage and commitment to advancing justice, on and beyond the basketball court.”