By Jared Bowen
Mar. 3, 2011
BOSTON — The legacy of Bill Russell ensured the legend of Bill Russell. During his career in the 1950s and ‘60s, Russell led the Celtics to 11 championships in 13 years. He was a five-time MVP and a 12-time All-Star.
“My job was to make sure we won. And so basically I played my game to ensure that so that whatever we needed done. That’s what we would do,” said the Celtics player-turned-coach.
He’s in the pantheon of greats. But unlike Ted Williams and Bobby Orr there’s no statue of him in Boston. Wednesday night, the Boston City Council presented a resolution to change that.
The push for a Russell statue began last month, when Russell was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House. President Barack Obama arguing that the man of epic stature deserves a statue.
That same momentum is gathering at home. In addition to the City Council’s resolution, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino is convening formal talks on the possibility of a Russell statue.
It’s a chorus from a community that for a long time wasn’t an easy one for Russell to be a part of, one that rejected and even victimized him for his race. Russell lived for the team, but the city he could do without — which is why he retired his jersey privately. Russell once called Boston “a flea market of racism.”
“I always had a proprietary feeling about the Celtics. These were us and our guys. And this type of thing was for us,” Rusell once said.
In recent years, Russell softened on Boston. He became a champion of the National Mentoring Program, performing work on its behalf here.
A statue could very literally reveal that in the end Russell was much bigger than everything and everyone he endured.
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