Celtics icon Larry Bird reacts to Bill Russell's passing with heartfelt statement

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From Bird to Russell: Larry Legend honors Celtics icon in statement originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

There's a very short list of players who had more NBA success than Larry Bird -- and Bill Russell is on it.

Russell, who passed away Sunday at age 88, won an incredible 11 championships in 13 seasons with the Boston Celtics, tied for the most of any player in any major American team sport.

In many ways, Russell set the standard for excellence in Boston, paving the way for future stars like Bird to carry the Celtics' success into the modern era.

Celtics Talk podcast: Brad Stevens reflects on the life and legacy of Bill Russell | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Bird reflected on what Russell meant to him Monday in a touching statement.

"I have always had tremendous respect for Bill as a man, as a player and great champion," Bird said in the statement. "I was always excited any time we were able to cross paths and spend time together. I will miss him."

One of Bird and Russell's most memorable public interactions came in 1997 at NBA All-Star Weekend, when the Celtics legends shared a moment with Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson.

"All of the rings are right here," Johnson said, gesturing to the entire trio.

"The majority of 'em are right here," Bird quipped, pointing to only himself and Russell.

Bird is one of the greatest players in NBA history and won three consecutive NBA MVP awards from 1984 to 1986. Still, Bird *only* won three championships to Russell's 11, a testament to Russell's incredible leadership during the Celtics dynasty of the late 1950s and 1960s.

"Given what teams go through to win a Stanley Cup or a World Series or Super Bowl, they do it twice and they burn down cities and celebrate all week," Celtics legend Bob Cousy told The Boston Globe's Dan Shaughnessy on Sunday. "We did it 11 times in 13 years and Russ is the center point of that."