Basketball great Bill Russell was a true friend of Bermuda, says former Premier
Basketball legend and civil rights activist Bill Russell, one of the first Black superstars in the National Basketball Association, was recalled as a friend to Bermuda by Ewart Brown, the former premier.
The Hall of Famer and Boston Celtics champion, who died on Sunday at 88, faced down racism in basketball even as he proved himself as one of the greatest players in the sport.
Mr Russell was also the first Black coach in the NBA, and the first Black coach to win an NBA championship.
Mr Russell notably took part in the March on Washington in 1963 with the civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr, and gave his backing to the late boxing champion Muhammad Ali in his controversial stand against being drafted.
“Bill Russell loved Bermuda,” Dr Brown said on Monday.
Premier under the Progressive Labour Party from 2006 to 2010, Dr Brown recalled joining Mr Russell in a round of golf at the newly renovated Port Royal Golf Course with former basketball pro Julius Erving – better known as Dr J – and former top pro golfer Lee Elder in July 2009.
It marked the official opening of the revamped golf course.
Dr Brown said the foursome, the first at the opening tournament, was “a day to remember”.
He added: “More than a basketball icon, Russell was consistent in his commentary regarding racism in the NBA and otherwise. He will be sorely missed.”
Other visits to Bermuda by Mr Russell included a 2004 motivational speech delivered at the Fairmont Southampton Hotel.
Mr Russell was awarded the Medal of Freedom in 2011 by US President Barack Obama.