BOSTON (CBS) – Bill Russell was never known for enjoying the spotlight.
He avoided a going-away tour by not announcing his intentions to retire until the end of the 1969 season. He did not want his number retired in front of a Boston Garden crowd, instead electing to have a private ceremony in an empty arena with his teammates. He even skipped out on his own Hall of Fame induction.
So you can imagine how the Celtics great feels about a statue of himself set to grace the City of Boston.
“It makes me a little uneasy because it seems almost like a tombstone,” Russell said Tuesday morning. “I don’t want to engrave my tombstone yet. But it’s tied in with the mentoring program, and there is very little I wouldn’t do for the mentoring program.”
Russell was honored with the “Lifetime Champion of Mentoring” award Tuesday morning at a breakfast at the EMC club in Fenway Park. The Mass Mentoring Partnership announced that it will partner with the Bill Russell Legacy Project to create the Bill Russell Mentoring Grant Program, which will award grants annually to local, non-profit organizations to help mentoring programs in and around Boston.
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It was announced earlier in the month The Bill Russell Legacy Committee and Celtics Shamrock Foundation plans to erect a statue of Russell in Boston, a place he did not have the best relationship during his playing days.
But Russell said on Tuesday he had no problems with the city.
“A lot of people think that I had to put up with a lot of things. I never once felt like I was putting up with anything,” Russell said of his time in Boston. “I had the time of my life. Basically off the court I was always community driven. To get some things done community-wise was always a plus.”
Bill Russell Talks Statue, City of Boston
“The city of Boston was interesting,” he finished, letting out one of his patented laughs.
“(It was) a very difficult time in the city’s history, and Russell proved he was his own person which was very difficult to do in those days,” teammate Tommy Heinsohn said. “He stood tall and he represented a great organization. I think through him, it taught the city teamwork and how to get a long.”
“Bill was the ultimate team player, not just on the court but off the court,” Boston Celtics Co-owner and President of the Celtics Shamrock Foundation Steve Pagliuca said. “I think it’s very appropriate now that we get the mentoring program going and continuing his work. A statue is well deserved. We’re very exciting about this development.”
The location of the statue or a timetable for its construction has yet to be determined.
Russell does not even know what the statue will look like, but is not concerned about the details.
“I’m one of those guys that can wait and see,” he said. “If it’s something that will help the kids of the future… I’m all for it.”