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Kobe Bryant developed a relationship with the late Bill Russell

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On Sunday, Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell suddenly passed away, leaving the NBA community in a state of sadness.

Russell wasn’t just the most prolific winner in the history of American pro sports, claiming 11 world championships in his 13 seasons in the league, but he was also an inspirational figure off the court.

He was a big advocate for fairness, equality, opportunity and mentorship.

One modern-day superstar who considered Russell a mentor was none other than late Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant.

Bryant and Russell developed a relationship over the years that was not just that of mentor and mentee, but also a mutual appreciation club of sorts.

In addition to being perhaps the game’s greatest rebounder and defender ever, Russell also has the reputation of being arguably the most selfless superstar in basketball history.

Although he was the leader and centerpiece of the Celtics’ dynasty in the late 1950s and 1960s, he was enmeshed within the team as much as any superstar in the history of the sport.

After developing a reputation as a me-first egomaniac early in his career, Bryant underwent a breathtaking metamorphosis in the mid-2000s that made him into a very strong leader who served his teammates.

Towards the end of his life, the Black Mamba also became an advocate for other NBA players and athletes in all sports, particularly women and children.

It’s fair to say that Russell helped pave the path for athletes to look beyond themselves and live in service to not only their teammates but to society as a whole.

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Story originally appeared on LeBron Wire