More than four decades later, Bill Russell is finally ready to embrace life as a Hall of Famer.
Russell, who was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 1975, announced on Twitter on Friday that he accepted his Hall of Fame ring in a private ceremony with his wife, Alonzo Mourning, Ann Meyers, Bill Walton and others. The 12-time All-Star declined to participate in the induction ceremony 44 years ago because he didn’t want to be the first black player inducted.
“In  I refused to be the first black player to go into the [Hall of Fame],” Russell tweeted in part on Friday, along with pictures from the private ceremony. “I felt others before me should have that honor.”
In a private ceremony w/my wife & close friends A.Mourning @AnnMeyers @billwalton & others I accepted my #HOF ring. In ‘75 I refused being the 1st black player to go into the @Hoophall I felt others before me should have that honor. Good to see progress; ChuckCooperHOF19 @NBA pic.twitter.com/2FI5U7ThTg
— TheBillRussell (@RealBillRussell) November 15, 2019
Russell didn’t elaborate on his decision to refuse the honor in 1975.
“For my own personal reasons, which I don’t want to discuss, I don’t want to be a part of it,” he told the New York Times in 1975. “[I’m] not going. They know that. I’ve felt this way for many years.”
Russell mentioned Chuck Cooper in his Tweet on Friday, too, which had a lot to do with his nearly 45-year boycott. Cooper was the first black player selected in the NBA draft in 1950, however was not inducted into the Hall of Fame until this year. He died in 1984.
Russell’s induction into the Hall of Fame was a no-brainer. The now 85-year-old spent 13 seasons with the Boston Celtics form 1956-1969, winning 11 NBA titles and five league MVP awards. He averaged 15.1 points and 22.5 rebounds per game during that time, and won four league rebounding titles. He served as the head coach for the Celtics during his final three seasons in Boston, becoming the first black coach in the league, and later coached the Seattle SuperSonics for four years and the Sacramento Kings for one season in 1987. Russell also has an Olympic gold medal under his belt and won two NCAA titles at San Francisco.
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