Bill Russell, USF and NBA basketball legend and Hall of Famer, was honored
with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on February 15.
“More than any other athlete of his era, Bill Russell came to define the
word ‘winner,’” President Barack Obama said in introducing Russell at the White
House award ceremony.
After leading USF to back-to-back NCAA championships in 1955 and 1956,
Russell went on to earn a gold medal in the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne.
He then joined the Boston Celtics and won 11 NBA titles in 13 years, including two
as player-coach. Russell became the first African-American head coach in any
professional sport in the U.S. when he was named coach of the Celtics in 1966.
The president also noted Russell’s commitment to human rights and justice.
Russell marched for equal rights with Martin Luther King Jr.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the United States’ highest civilian award
and recognizes men and women who have “made an especially meritorious
contribution to: (1) the security or national interests of the United States, or
(2) world peace, or (3) cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”