Bill Russell: Death, Career, Retirement & Controversy

This article was last updated by on

Bill Russell- a pioneer of NBA, legendary player, Hall of Famer, activist, and Boston Celtics icon who had bagged five MVPs awards and 11 Championships in his career, died on July 31, 2022, due to natural reasons at his home at the age of 88. The champion marched with Martin Luther King for civil rights.

Boston Celtics expressed their grievance over the loss of the legendary player Bill. They tweeted, “To be the greatest champion in your sport, to revolutionize the way the game is played, and to be a societal leader all at once seems unthinkable, but that is who Bill Russell was.” 

Also, NBA tweeted, Remembering a giant of the game and life, Mr. Bill Russell,” on their official tweeter page.

Bill was among those players who succeeded in the beginning phase of his career. However, he did not have to wait long to get his name and fame.

In his thirteen years long Career, Bill was awarded NBA Most Valuable Player five times. He also holds the title of the most championship athlete in North America.

With an average of 19 points in every game, he is considered one of the legends in basketball history.

 NBA champion Bill Russell
The Legendary NBA champion Bill Russell (Source: Twitter)

Today, we will unveil his life; apart from his career, we will discuss his personal life, childhood, net worth, activism, and many more.

But before we proceed, let us have an instant glance at the quick facts.

Quick Facts

Full Name Bill Felton Russell
Birth Date February 12, 1934
Birth Place Monroe, Louisiana, United States
Died On  Sunday, July 31, 2022
  • Mr. 11 Rings
  • The Secretary of Defense
Age 90 Years Old
Nationality American
Ethnicity Black
  • McClymonds High School
  • University of San Francisco
Horoscope Aquarius
Father’s Name Charles Russell
Mother’s Name Katie Russell
Siblings Charles L. Russell
Height 6 ft. 10 inches (2.08 m)
Weight 98 kg (215 lbs)
Hair Color Black
Eye Color Black
Build Athletic
Sexual Orientation Straight
Marital Status Married
Wife Jeannine Russell
  • Rose Swisher
  • Dorothy Anstett
  • Marilyn Nault
  • Jacob Russell
  • William Russell Jr.
  • Karen Russell
Profession Professional Basketball Player
Affiliation NBA
Debut Year 1956
Position Center
Active Years 1956-1964
Career Earnings $10 Million
Salary $100k
Merch Paperback (Go Up for Glory) (Bill Russell: A Biography)
Social Media Instagram, Twitter
Last Update April 2024

Bill Russell: Early Life and Education

It was one cold day of 1934 and the month of love when Bill was born. He was born to Charles and Katie Russell.

He had a tough childhood and often became the victim of racism like every other black would be treated at that time.

His father was once placed at gunpoint and given a death threat. And about Katie, even a police officer bullied her for being black. So, the Russell family moved to California when Bill was eight years old to get a better life.

After shifting to California, the Russell family had to go through extreme poverty. Bill spent his whole childhood living in public housing projects.

Bill Russell in Boston
Bill Russell protecting the ball from his opponents (Source: Si)

Later, Charles became a truck driver to earn something for his family. But just when they thought their condition would improve, the Russell family received a major emotional blow.

Bill’s mother passed away suddenly; at that time, Bill was only twelve years old. It was tough for Bill to digest that his mother was no more as he was closer to his mother than his father.

So, to take care of his semi-orphaned kid, Charles left work as a truck driver and became a steelworker.

Bills’ Basketball Journey

Even though Russells were poor, Charles sent Bill to school, where Bill was introduced to basketball for the first time.

As Bill was tall, had long legs and hands, could jump high, and run well, he was perfect for basketball.

But the problem arises when, even though he got every physical attribute to be a great basketball player, he could understand the game and initially struggled to develop basketball skills.

You can also read about Hamidou Diallo’s Bio: Early Life, Basketball, and Net Worth>>

As a result, he was cut from Herbert Hoover Junior High School’s team. Unfortunately, the same incident was repeated in McClymonds High School, and he was almost cut off from the team.

But George Powles, coach of McClymonds, saw raw athletic capabilities of Bill and thought of giving him a chance. And this incident motivated Bill and gave him hope.

Soon after so much hard work, Bill became famous for his unusual defense techniques. When Russell was on an All-Star tour for California High School, he used to study and memorize other players’ moves. 

Bill Russell: Career

University Career

At first, Bill was ignored by all the recruiters, but Hal DeJio of the University of San Francisco decided to give Bill a chance after seeing him play in a high school game.

Even though Hall was not impressed by Bill’s performance, he sensed Bill’s dedication to the game and offered him a full scholarship that Bill accepted.

At that point, Bill realized that basketball could only be the medium to escape from poverty and sword himself to be the best someday.

But it was not easy; Bill and his black teammates often became targets of racism. The hotel refused to keep Bill and his black friends there when they were in the tournament.

As a result, they had to camp out in the college dorm. But, as it is said, there is always good in bad; that is what happened with Bill. Their worst experience became the best moment for the team, and everyone bonded well.

In Bill’s Junior year, his team won twenty-eight out of twenty-nine games. He even won the National Championship and became the MVP in the final four.

With Russell’s extraordinary performance, USF won NCAA Championship twice. At the end of his university career, Bill made an average of 20.7 points per game.

Track and Field

Bill had also represented his university in track and field games. Since he had long legs and hands and could jump, he was the best person to represent USF.

Besides, in 1956, he was also ranked as the #7 best jumper globally.


By 1956 Russell had already proved to be the finest basketball player in the country. Red Auerbach, who happened to be Boston Celtics’ coach at that time, wanted Bill on his team.

Red traded some of the best players of Boston to bring Russell into his team. At that time, the deal was made, Rochester Royals would trade Bill if Boston gave them their two best players, Ed Macauley and Cliff Hagan of Boston.

Surprisingly, Red traded his two best players to acquire Bill for his team. Hence, this is how Bill got drafted by Boston Celtics, and thus, this draft day is considered one of the most important trades in North American sports history.

After Bill was drafted, he could not join Celtics for the first half of the season as he had commitments to play in Olympics.

But as he returned in December, he played forty-eight games with an average of 14 points per game. Bill’s first game was against St. Louis Hawks, led by Bob Pettit.

Bill Russell statue by Ann Hirsch (
Bill Russell statue by Ann Hirsch (Source: Boston Celtics)

Russell was the best defender on the team, and whenever they needed help, they would shout “Hey, Bill!” and Bill would quickly come to the rescue.

At that time, Celtics allowed their players to play hard because they knew Bill would be there if any feud arose. So, let us say Bill was the Celtics’ ultimate warrior or kind of superhero for them, always ready to rescue.

As a result, Boston won forty-four seasons in 1957, the second-best Bostons’ record after 1947.

First NBA Victory and Success

But all these incidents portray Bill as a negative character. Once, Russell punched Ray Felix and was fined $25. But the actual story behind that was Red permitted Bill to take matters into his hand after constantly being provoked by Felix.

With Bill’s incredible support and Bob Pettit’s leadership, the Celtics won NBA Championship for the first time in their franchise’s history.

Then, Bill and his team won fourteen consecutive matches in his second season. Bill had an average of 16.6 per game.

Then, with some great gameplay, Celtics defeated their All-time rival Hawks and regained the NBA Championship again after defeating Minneapolis Lakers in the finals. And after this win, Boston broke the NBA record by winning all fifty-two games.

The Later Career

Bill was winning every game and creating records after records. He even defeated Wilt Chamberlain, the best player for Philadelphia Warriors.

From 1959 to 1966, Bill and his team, Boston Celtics, won the NBA Championship for eight years straight.

You can also read about Kevin Porter Jr. Bio: Net Worth & NBA>>

Later in 1967, when Red decided to retire, he had to put someone in his head coach position. Red made three choices, but none were fixed; as a result, Red insisted Bill be his team’s head coach.

For the first time in NBA history, a person from a black ethnic group became a head coach. But Bill was a player and not trained enough to be a head coach; as a result, the team lost their eight years-long streaks.

Russell’s game was slowly declining, but he had an average of 12 points per game even in his thirties. At one point, Boston lost every match, and everyone thought it was an end for the Celtics.

But Boston proved everyone wrong and came back with a bang, and no team in the history of the NBA had made such a return after a 3-1 deficit.

But in 1968, after the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, Bill was devastated and no longer wanted to play for the USA. After that incident, Bill’s game degraded, and Boston continuously lost the match.

Rusell, in his last NBA match, won his eleventh NBA Championship. And after some days, Boston organized a celebration because Boston had won after such a long time.

More than 30,000 people were there to appreciate the team, but Bill was not present at that celebration. He then cut every tie with the Celtics and ended his NBA Career. 

After Retiring from NBA

Bill worked as a commentator for ABC Sports. Besides, he did not attend any event in his honor, whether it was being inducted to the Hall of Fame or his jersey retirement day. Furthermore, he also worked as a coach for Seattle SuperSonics and Sacramento Kings.

Honors and Accolades

  • Eleven times NBA champion 
  • Five times NBA Most Valuable Player 
  • NBA All-Star, twelve times 
  • NBA All-Star Game MVP in 1963
  • All-NBA First Team, thrice 
  • Eight Times All-NBA Second Team
  • NBA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019 (Bill was also present in that award show)
  • Statue of Bill Russell installed in Bostan Celtics Hall
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011

Bill Russell: Net Worth

Bill spent thirteen years of his life with the Celtics; no doubt, he had earned a good amount of money from his career. 

It is expected that Bill had a net worth of $10 million. When Russell was at the peak of his career, he used to earn $100k a year, which was the highest amount of money any NBA player had ever received at that time.

You can also read about the Ten Best Power Forwards Ever in NBA>>

In his rookie year, he was signed for $24k; from $24k to 100k, Bill had walked a long way with the Celtics. Besides that, Bill lived in a mansion worth $2.6 million, located at 4,250 sq ft and has five bedrooms and 3.25 bathrooms.

In 2021 Bill even auctioned all the awards and honors he received in thirteen years of his career, and from that auction, he earned $5 million in total.

Bill Russell: Personal Life

Bill’s life had not been as good as his career, and his love life had undoubtedly been a mess with two unsuccessful marriages.

First, he married his high school sweetheart Rose Swisher in 1956. With Swisher, he even had three kids, but due to some differences, they both broke up in 1973.

He again married Dorothy Anstett, who happened to be Miss USA, in 1968. In 1980 after three years of marriage, Bill divorced Dorothy.

Russell with his sons.
Russell in 1961 with his sons (Source: Instagram)

In 1996, Bill finally got the love of his life, Marilyn Nault. Still, unfortunately, this union did not last, but this time not because of divorce but because of the inevitable phenomenon, the death of Nault in 2009.

Lastly, he happily married Jeannine Russell, and they are living their best lives together.

Bill Russell: Controversy

Russell’s life is all about controversy, and it still is unknown if he follows controversy or controversy follows him. Jokes apart, Bill had always been in controversy because of his controversial statements.

Bill always felt he was dominated all the time just because he was black. In many events, he spoke in favor of black and how they are being mistreated. 

Bill did not even attend Boston’s eleventh NBA victory ceremony, which field the news of him being upset with Boston. However, even after many years, things are still not right between Boston and Bill.

In 2013, Bill again made headlines after being arrested for carrying loaded gum at Seattle International Airport. Even though he was a licensed gun holder, he was penalized $5000 in violation of civil law, as bringing a gun in a public place violates the law. 

Besides, Bill had always been in the headlines for his rude behavior with fans. For example, he never gave fans an autograph, which negatively portrayed his fans.

Social Media 

Bill was active on both Instagram and Twitter. Almost 333k people on Instagram have followed him. Besides, 197.1k people follow him on Twitter.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is Bill Russell doing these days?

Bill was enjoying his retirement life like every 90-year-old man would do. Sadly, he took his last breath on July 31, 2022.

Is Bill Russel Dead?

Unfortunately, the 88-year-old legendary player and pioneer passed away on Sunday,31st august, at his home. 

How did Bill Russell impact the civil rights movement?

He marched along with Martin Luther King in the civil rights movement in Washington and fought against racial injustice throughout his career. The legend even supported Mohammad Ali when he refused to serve in the military. 

How many rings did Bill Russell win as a player?

 Bill has bagged a total of 11 championships during his career. He also had the NBA Most Valuable Player award five times during his career, which is rare.

Miss. KeCy
Miss. KeCy

Anusha K.C

Anusha K.C is a dynamic writer with a keen interest in uncovering the stories that lie beneath the surface of the sports world. Her articles offer readers a fresh perspective on athletes and sporting events, blending insightful analysis with engaging storytelling.


Sports Analysis Lifestyle Coverage


  • Anusha shares inspiring stories of athletes who have overcome adversity to achieve success.
  • She explores the off-field lives of athletes, from their training routines and dietary habits.


Anusha's passion for sports journalism is rooted in a love of competition and a fascination with the human stories behind athletic achievement. With a background in writing and a keen eye for detail, she brings a unique perspective to her articles, capturing the excitement and emotion of sports with depth and insight.

Related articles



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share article

Latest News