When it comes to the biggest and most important figures in basketball history, Celtics legend Bill Russell has to be near the top. Besides winning at an unbelievable rate, he was among the first black superstars in the league at the time, and he had to endure all kinds of mistreatment to pave the way for those who came after him.
Sadly, Bill Russell passed earlier this year at the age of 88, marking the end of an extraordinary life and career.
During this year's Hall of Fame ceremony (which took place on Saturday night), Russell received a touching tribute from a pair of basketball legends.
Jerry West And Alonzo Mourning Team Up To Give Bill Russell An Emotional Tribute
To open the event, West and Mourning took the stage and spoke candidly about what kind of impact Russell had on both the NBA and the world as a whole.
"To be considered among the very best, you must be willing to lay it on the line against the very best," said West. "I was lucky enough to learn this first-hand when facing off against Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics. Bill was the ultimate competitor on the court and a remarkable human being off of it. And in his own way, he made all lives he touched a little bit better. That's why he'll be missed, especially by those who were fortunate enough to know him."
It was a well-spoken statement from the former Lakers legend, but the flowers didn't stop there. After Jerry said what he had to say, he passed the mic to Alonzo Mourning, who followed it up with a statement of his own.
"The championships Bill Russell won and his professional feats/triumphs, are well documented and unmatched. It is, however, his impact on society as a champion of social justice that is the root of our profound admiration for him. Bill had a deep love for people and that drove his passion for civil and human rights..."
All-in-all, it was a fantastic tribute to one of the most respected athletes in history. And as great as Bill Russell was on the floor, it was his leadership and values off the court that really cemented his place in basketball history.
Now, even though he's gone, his name, legacy, and life will continue to be remembered and celebrated by the countless fans who looked up to him and all that he did to make the world a better place.