After 4 Decades, NBA Great Accepts HOF Ring

Bill Russell thought others should go in first
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 15, 2019 5:30 PM CST
After 4 Decades, NBA Great Accepts HOF Ring
Bill Russell accepts the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPY Awards on July 10, 2019, in Los Angeles.   (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Bill Russell, one of the greatest players in NBA history by any measure, was chosen for the Hall of Fame in 1975. He was the first black player selected, but he didn't accept the honor, and he didn't want to explain why. On Friday, Russell announced that has changed. He's ready to be in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, evidently because the Hall of Fame is now ready for him. Russell accepted his ring in a private ceremony, ESPN reports. In a tweet, he gave his reasons and posted photos. He refused at the time to become the first black player inducted, he wrote, because "I felt others before me should have that honor." Russell added the name of Chuck Cooper, who was the first black player drafted by the league, in 1950. Cooper entered the Hall of Fame in September, per CBS. "Good to see progress," Russell wrote.

As a player, Russell won 11 NBA titles with the Celtics, five MVP crowns, a gold medal in the Olympics and two NCAA championships. He was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. In his e-book on the history of basketball and race, LeBron James called Russell a civil rights hero, per Bleacher Report. James cited Russell and his black teammates boycotting a 1961 exhibition game in Kentucky after a restaurant wouldn't serve them. When Medgar Evers was killed in 1963 in Jackson, Mississippi, Russell went there to lead the first integrated basketball camps in the city's history. In presenting Russell with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the EPSYs in July, Kobe Bryant said, per WBZ, that Russell inspired the next generation to follow his example. "Bill's dissatisfaction with the injustices of the world never changed," Bryant said. (At a White House event, Russell played basketball with the president.)

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