Basketball legend Bill Russell left a legacy larger than life

Jessica A. Johnson

This is a column by Athens native, Jessica Johnson, a lecturer at The Ohio State University’s Lima campus. She is a regular contributor to the Athens Banner-Herald.

As the accolades overflowed from current and former NBA players when Boston Celtics great Bill Russell passed away peacefully on July 31, one of the unique attributes of his legacy that stands out is that he never craved attention or being in the spotlight.

In Russell’s 2013 acceptance speech during the unveiling of the Boston City Hall statue honoring his pioneering NBA and civil rights accomplishments, he began with a modest opening statement: “What’s this all about?”

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Further in his remarks, Russell said, “If you really, seriously believe in God, no joking about it or anything, He does not need a marker to find you – and I don’t care if anybody else finds me.” Russell was 79 years young at this time, and he was referring to comments he had made in an interview where he said that statues reminded him of tombstones and that he would be “perfectly satisfied to be buried in an unmarked grave.”

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