BOSTON (CBS) – After presenting Celtics great Bill Russell with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Tuesday, President Barrack Obama made a plea.
“Bill Russell, the man, is someone who stood up for the rights and dignity of all men,” the President said. “He marched with King; he stood by Ali. When a restaurant refused to serve the black Celtics, he refused to play in the scheduled game. He endured insults and vandalism, but he kept on focusing on making the teammates who he loved better players, and made possible the success of so many who would follow. I hope that one day, in the streets of Boston, children will look up at a statue built not only to Bill Russell the player, but Bill Russell the man.”
Red Auerbach has a statue in Fanuel Hall. Bobby Orr’s infamous “The Goal” is now outside of the TD Garden. Ted Williams has two statues outside of Fenway, and of course, a tunnel.
Now it’s Russell’s turn.
Russell won 11 NBA championships with the Celtics, including nine straight from 1959 to 1969. He embellished the “team-first” mentality, focusing more on defense in an era when offense was the name of the game.
The five-time MVP was also an active leader for equal rights in the 60′s and 70′s. Russell’s relationship with the city of Boston during his playing days was not a good one, as he often felt discriminated against. He has since reconciled and is more active when it comes to events in his honor. Russell’s number-six was originally retired in front of an empty Boston Garden (at Russell’s request) upon his retirement in 1972, but was again “re-retired” in front of a sell-out crowd in 1995.
Now it is finally time to give fans another way to honor one of the greatest Boston athletes of all-time. He has more titles than Tom Brady, Larry Bird and Bobby Orr, combined. It is a tribute that is long overdue.
What are your thoughts? Does Russell deserve a statue in Boston? Let us know what you think.