Bill Russell’s Arthur Ashe Courage Award Explained In Moving Tribute Video


July 11, 2019

Bill Russell’s life and work deserve great acclaim.

If you didn’t subscribe to that theory already, the video ESPN released Wednesday night about the Boston Celtics legend will make you a believer. The inspirational video details why Russell received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2019 ESPYs.

By spending much of his life advocating for civil rights and other important causes, such as mentoring children, Russell, 85, embodies the spirit of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, which ESPN bestows upon recipients who “reflect the spirit of Arthur Ashe, possessing strength in the face of adversity, courage in the face of peril and the willingness to stand up for their beliefs no matter what the cost.”

Russell spent 13 seasons between 1956 and 1969 with the Celtics as a player and coach, leading the team to 11 NBA championships during that span. All the while, he participated in the civil rights movement, lending his time, money and influence to the cause.

“See Russell didn’t wait until he was safe to stand up for what was right,” former Georgetown men’s basketball coach John Thompson Jr. said in the video. “Russell did that in the midst of winning 11 championships. He represented things that were right while he had something to lose.”

Russell didn’t rest on his laurels after retiring from basketball. He increasingly delved into the field of mentorship in order to help future generations.

“He succeeded as a coach for the same reason he won so much as a player, for the same reason he made such an impact so far beyond the court: Bill Russell has never been about just himself,” movie star Angela Bassett said in the video. “It’s why he spent so much of his focus since he left the game dedicating himself to the cause of mentorship, to the idea that life isn’t worth living if you can’t find a way to impact those who follow you.”

Russell is the first athlete who played for a Boston sports team to receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, and the city and its residents honor him once again.

Thumbnail photo via Richard Mackson/USA TODAY Sports Images
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