Bill Russell, Celtics Center Who Transformed Pro Basketball, Dies at 88

In 1999, he agreed to a public ceremony at the Fleet Center – Boston Garden’s successor – for the 30th anniversary of his last championship team and his retirement as a player, as well as his number’s second retirement. The event was also a fundraiser for the National Mentoring Partnership, whose programs he helped develop as a board member.

“There are no other people’s children in this country,” he told the crowd. “They are the children of the nation, and I refuse to be at war with them. I will always do everything I can to make a child’s life better.”

He made commercials, signed autographs for serious collectors (for a fee) and gave motivational speeches.

Russell married Jeannine Fiorito for the fourth time in 2016. His first marriage, to Rose Swisher, ended in divorce, as did his second marriage, to Dorothy Anstett. His third wife, Marilyn Nault, died in 2009 at the age of 59.

Russell had three children from his first marriage – William Jr., Jacob and Karen Kenyatta Russell. William Jr., better known as Buddha, died in 2016 at the age of 58. Russell’s brother, a playwright and screenwriter going by the name Charlie L. Russell, died in 2013 at the age of 81. Complete information on survivors was not immediately available.

Russell was uncompromising when it came to his principles. “There are two societies in this country, and I have to recognize it, to see life for what it is and not get grim, mad,” he told Sport magazine in 1963, referring to the racial divide. “I don’t work for acceptance. I am who I am. If you like it, that’s nice. If not, I don’t care.”

He was also a very proud man.

“If you can take something to a level that very few other people can do,” he told Sports Illustrated in 1999, “what you do becomes art.”

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