Was Bill Russell married and did he have kids? Read on about the personal life of the late NBA legend.
Russell passed away at 88 years old on Sunday with his wife by his side, his family announced on social media. The 11-time NBA champion is widely considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He played with the Boston Celtics from 1956 to 1969. Throughout his career, he won five MVP awards and was selected to 12 All-Star teams.
Russell was also the first Black head coach in the major American sports leagues.
Did Russell have kids, and who was his current wife before his death?
Bill Russell was married for the fourth time and had three children
Russell married for the fourth time, to Jeannine Fiorito, in 2016. His first marriage, to Rose Swisher, ended in divorce, as did his second marriage, to Dorothy Anstett. His third wife, Marilyn Nault, died in 2009 at 59.
Russell had three children from his first marriage — William Jr., Jacob, and Karen Kenyatta Russell. William Jr., known as Buddha, died in 2016 at 58. Russell’s brother, a playwright, and screenwriter under the name Charlie L. Russell died in 2013 at 81. Complete information on survivors was not immediately available.
What did Russell die of?
Russell’s cause of death has yet to be revealed.
His family announced his death in a touching statement posted to Twitter.
It read: “Bill Russell, the most prolific winner in American sports history, passed away peacefully today at age 88, with his wife, Jeannine, by his side.”
“Bills two state championships in high school offered a glimmer of the incomparable run of pure team accomplishment to come:
“twice an NCAA champion; captain of a gold-medal-winning US Olympic team; 11 times an NBA champion; and at the helm for two NBA championships as the first black head coach of any North American professional sports team.
“Along the way, Bill earned a string of individual awards that stands unprecedented as it went unmentioned by him.”
Russell played center for the Boston Celtics from 1956 until 1969, and was player-coach there from 1966 to 1969.
He then had stints as head coach at the Seattle SuperSonics from 1973 to 1977, and the Sacramento Kings from 1987 to 1988.
Former Celtics coach, Red Auerbach, called Russell “the single most devastating force in the history of the game” when he was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975.
But he was also a towering figure away from the basketball court.
His family’s statement continues: “But for all the winning, Bill’s understanding of the struggle is what illuminated his life.
“From boycotting a 1961 exhibition game to unmask too-long-tolerated discrimination, to leading Mississippi’s first integrated basketball camp in the combustible wake of Medgar Evans’ assassination,”
They went on: “to decades of activism ultimately recognized by his receipt of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010, Bill called out injustice with an unforgiving candor that he intended would disrupt the status quo,
“And with a powerful example that, though never his humble intention, will forever inspire teamwork, selflessness and thoughtful change.”
Russell had not even attended the Basketball Hall of Fame ceremony when he won because he felt other black players should’ve gotten the award before him.
In 2019 he tweeted: “I felt others before me should have had that honor. Good to see progress,” after privately accepting the Hall of Fame ring.
“Bill’s wife, Jeannine, and his many friends and family thank you for keeping Bill in your prayers.
“Perhaps you’ll relive one or two of the golden moments he gave us, or recall his trademark laugh as he delighted in explaining the real story behind how those moments unfolded,” they said.
“And we hope each of us can find a new way to act or speak up with Bill’s uncompromising, dignified and always constructive commitment to principle.
The family ended by saying: “That would be one last, and lasting, win for our beloved #6,.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver also released a statement on Russell’s passing.
“Bill Russell was the greatest champion in all of team sports,” he wrote.
Alex Wong / Getty Images
Barack Obama reacted to the death of NBA legend Bill Russell on Twitter, Sunday.
Former President Barack Obama responded to the death of Bill Russell on Twitter, Sunday, comparing the late NBA legend to Dr. Martin Luther King and Muhammad Ali. Obama had previously honored Russell with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011, during his first term in the Oval Office.
“Today, we lost a giant. As tall as Bill Russell stood, his legacy rises far higher—both as a player and as a person,” Obama began a series of tweets about Russell.
He added: “Perhaps more than anyone else, Bill knew what it took to win and what it took to lead. On the court, he was the greatest champion in basketball history. Off of it, he was a civil rights trailblazer—marching with Dr. King and standing with Muhammad Ali.
“For decades, Bill endured insults and vandalism, but never let it stop him from speaking up for what’s right. I learned so much from the way he played, the way he coached, and the way he lived his life. Michelle and I send our love to Bill’s family, and everyone who admired him.”