Phoenix Suns pay tribute to NBA legend Bill Russell

Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

The NBA lost a true legend on Sunday, with the Phoenix Suns among millions of teams and fans who paid tribute to 11-time champion Bill Russell.

Russell’s family announced the news, stating that “he passed away peacefully today at age 88, with his wife, Jeannine, by his side”. 

The former Celtic is remembered as the most winningest player in American sports history. At the 2009 All-Star game in Phoenix, the NBA announced it would honour Russell by henceforth naming NBA Finals MVP the ‘Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award’.

Like many in the wake of his passing, the Suns and Phoenix Mercury chose to focus on the indelible mark that Russell left off the court.

For all his incomparable on court achievements (11 NBA titles, a 5-time MVP, 12-time All-Star…the list goes on), his legacy might be most defined by his advocacy for civil rights.

Having joined the NBA in the 1968-69 season, the Suns bore witness to an older Russell as he entered the twilight of his career. That proved little hope for a new franchise though, with Phoenix holding one record among Russell’s list of achievements.

Russell was 6-0 against the Suns, the only team he played that didn’t secure at least one victory. Although he may have only averaged 11 points across those six games, Russell did pull down 22.3 rebounds and dished out 6.3 assists per game.

Suns’ modern day star Devin Booker left a three frame post honouring Russell on his instagram story, finishing with the words, “Rest easy OG”.

Former Phoenix star Charles Barkley labelled Russell a ‘hero’, outlining that his legacy goes far beyond just that of the NBA world.

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Tributes will continue to flow for a much-loved figure. His infectious smile and vibrant sense of humour kept fans entertained even in the latter years of what was an astonishing life.