Bill Russell was the winningest basketball player who ever lived. He was the first athlete to call himself “Black” instead of “Negro” Russell was such a freak about winning, he threw up before nearly every game at the thought of not winning. He didn’t care just about his dignity, he cared about all his teammates. He listened to NPR and watched “Jeopardy” after the season, he’d put trophies on the shelf and stay inside his house for weeks at a time, just reading. In his college, Olympic and NBA career, he played 21 winner-take-all games. He went 21-0. He never had even a single 40-point game.
Bill Russell died Sunday at 88, in his sleep, quiet and dignified. He openly fought white supremacy and suffered for it. He fought for it, and his FBI file described him as “an arrogant Negro who won’t sign autographs for white children’s” No wonder he refused to have his jersey retired in front of Boston fans.