Few figures in NBA history command as much respect as Bill Russell, winner of 11 championships with the Boston Celtics during the '50s and '60s. He was a terrific leader, the best defender of all time, an important figure in the civil rights movement, and ahead of his time in many respects. A few months ago, he was even named as a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the country. However, he didn't always have the best relationship with the city of Boston, to the point where he rarely made official appearances for the franchise until recently.
Now, the team is honoring him with a statue in Boston. Here are a few details from the team's press release:
The Boston Celtics Shamrock Foundation in partnership with the newly formed Bill Russell Legacy Committee announced today they will erect a statue of Bill Russell in the city of Boston designed by a local artist. In commemoration of Russell's accomplishments as the greatest champion in the history of professional sports, as a national leader in human rights and as a dedicated advocate for youth mentoring, the Bill Russell Legacy Project will also develop a Mentoring Grant program in Russell's name to ensure his passion is carried on by expanding the resources for mentoring programs in the city of Boston. [...]
"We are honored to play a role in paying tribute to such an extraordinary athlete, leader and legacy," Boston Celtics Managing Partner/Co-owner and President of the Shamrock Foundation Stephen Pagliuca said. "Bill Russell will forever be remembered in Boston, and it's fitting that the ultimate benefactors of his legacy will be future generations of our beloved city's youth." [...]
"I am uncomfortable with honors such as this but my years as Captain of the Boston Celtics were the proudest moments of my career," Boston Celtics Legend Bill Russell said. "Mayor Menino's Boston has proven to be a City that embraces the diverse contributions of all its people and neighborhoods. I am thankful to the Celtics and all the contributors for the effort to create such a wonderful Mentoring program."
It's a long overdue honor, and we can only hope that the statue is placed in a spot where everyone can appreciate it. Support for such a move has been building for some time, with Paul Flannery making an excellent case for a monument several months ago for Boston Magazine.
Still, it makes little sense right now to harp on the amount of time it took. Congrats to Russell and the Celtics for making this happen. That kids stand to benefit from the statue and it's attendant initiatives is a welcome bonus and a fitting tribute to Russell's impact on the nation.