Bill Russell can now join the likes of Ted Williams, Bobby Orr, and his own coach Red Auerbach in the ranks of Boston athletes immortalized in bronze. The Celtics great will finally receive his long-overdue statue, the push for which began after Paul Flannery pointed out how glaring an absence it was in his column last October.
The city has seen more than its fair share of great athletes in its history, but Russell's legacy goes beyond his actions on the court, both as a strong advocate for human rights and, as mentioned by Mayor Thomas Menino, as a supporter for youth mentoring in the city:
"I am so proud to be part of an effort to honor Bill Russell. He is not only one of the greatest champions the sports world has ever seen, he is a man who has stood by and delivered for our young people through his support of mentoring programs. I want all Bostonians and all who work or visit here to recognize Bill Russell and all his accomplishments."
Appropriately, the Bill Russell Legacy Fund that will provide the resources to create the statue will also work towards creating a Bill Russell Mentoring Grant Program to aid youth organizations around the city. Unsurprisingly, it is this program that Russell is most appreciative of:
"I am uncomfortable with honors such as this but my years as Captain of the Boston Celtics were the proudest moments of my career," Boston Celtics Legend Bill Russell said. "Mayor Menino's Boston has proven to be a City that embraces the diverse contributions of all its people and neighborhoods. I am thankful to the Celtics and all the contributors for the effort to create such a wonderful Mentoring program."
For a long time, Bill Russell had not had the best relationship with the city that he brought 11 NBA championships to, with racial tensions and the media keeping him distant. In recent years, however, the wounds seem to have healed, and now Boston will finally recognize the legacy of perhaps its most deserving athlete.