Bill Russell's recent demise triggered an outpour of sympathy from fans of the icon who knew him and curiosity from those who didn't. He was a great sportsman and an even better lover who found love with four different women while alive.
Bill Russell was an 11-time NBA champion who played with the Boston Celtics and later became the first Black head coach in the league. The talented sportsman called the "most prolific winner in American sports history" passed away in peace on Sunday.
Russell was first known for his talent on the court, but later, he became much more than the regular star player. He became the sports' leading civil rights activist who was able to use his platform as a sports star to draw public attention to injustice.
Bill Russell attends 2019 NBA Awards on June 24, 2019 in Santa Monica, California. | Source: Getty Images;
He marched alongside Martin Luther King Jr. when the well-known activist delivered his "I Have a Dream" lecture in 1963. He also sent his support to famous boxer Muhammad Ali while he fought against the then government's attempts to get him drafted into the military.
Russell's death was confirmed on his verified Instagram page with a statement from his family. It said that the beloved champion passed away "peacefully" with his wife, Jeannine, beside him. He was 88.
The statement praised Russell's achievements on the basketball court, including his 11 championships and his tenures as the Black head coach. The statement was accompanied by a picture that gave Russell a happy look as he posed next to his lovely wife, Jeanine, and two dogs.
His death hit the nation hard, especially basketball fans who had seen him play and coach. Former US President Barack Obama was among the netizens who took to Twitter to express grief for Russell's passing. He said:
"Today, we lost a giant. As tall as Bill Russell stood, his legacy rises far higher -- both as a player and as a person,"
Michael Jordan, arguably the most iconic basketballer of all time, also spoke a few words addressing Russell's demise. He said: "Bill Russell was a pioneer -- as a player, as a champion, as the NBA's first Black head coach, and as an activist… The world has lost a legend."
INSIDE BILL RUSSELL'S RICH PERSONAL LIFE
Russell got married a total of four times to different women in his lifetime. He married his college sweetheart Rose Swisher in 1956, and the marriage lasted nearly two decades before they went their separate ways in 1973.
A book that addressed the topic of their marriage published around that period stated that the two "grew emotionally distant," and it spelled doom for their relationship. The pair had three kids together by that time, but that was not enough to make them stay together.
Rose Swisher and Bill Russell ride in a victory parade celebrating the University of San Francisco's national basketball championship in San Francisco on March 22, 1955. | Source: Getty Images
All three children, William Jr., Karen Kenyatta, and Jacob, are now grown-ups and are pursuing their respective careers. Karen, born in 1962, is his only daughter, and she is a Television pundit and lawyer.
As a political analyst, she has appeared on big media channels, including CNN and MSNBC. When she's not doing that, Karen can be found pursuing justice as an attorney. On the other hand, Russell's two sons have lived most of their public lives under the radar.
Russell and Rose welcomed William Jr. in 1957, but he passed away at 58 after a battle with cancer in 2016. His brother, Jacob, was born in 1959 and is currently married.
Bill Russell and his sons, Budda, 3, and Jacob, 20 months, circs 1961 | Source: Getty Images
Russell married his second wife in 1977. Her name was Dorothy Anstett, a former Miss USA. She was born in Kirkland, Washington, and was also one of those who competed at the Miss Universe Pageant held at the Miami Beach in July 1968. Dorothy was born into a large family of nine kids by an aircraft plant worker.
She graduated from the University of Washington with a major in English, and one of her life ambitions is to teach mentally disabled high school children. Her marriage to Russell lasted only three years before they went their separate ways.
A radiant Dorothy Anstett of Kirkland, Washington, poses with her newly won Miss USA trophy, circa 1958 | Source: Getty Images
The third woman Russell wedded was Marilyn Nault Russell. She was a jewelry salesperson and married Russell on February 17, 2000. The pair spent their life together traveling throughout the US and touring other countries.
Marilyn was known for her friendliness, quick wit, and generosity. She was with Russell until she passed away on January 21, 2009, at Virginia Mason Hospital, Seattle, Washington. She was 59.
BILL RUSSELL FOUND LOVE AGAIN
Bill Russell in Boston, 1965. | Source: Getty Images
After Dorothy passed away, Russell found love again with Jeanine. The couple shared pictures on Instagram while he was alive; however, they are very private, and very little is known about Jeanine.
Russell and Jeanine were practically inseparable when he was alive. In February, he celebrated their love for valentine with a picture of him and Jeanine posing in a golf cart.
Last January, Russell shared a picture of them renewing their wedding vows on their anniversary, implying that they got married in January 2020; however, she appeared on his Instagram page as far back as 2018.
In the post he shared to celebrate their vow renewal, Russell tagged Jeanine a "wonderful wife" and revealed that they got married on January 8, 2020, even though they were renewing on January 24.
The legendary athlete and his wife were often seen together while he lived, so unsurprisingly, he passed away with Jeanine by his side. Russell touched many lives in his time on earth, and he had an even greater influence on Basketball as a player.
He suffered a lot of racism and discrimination in those early years, but he did not let any of it stop him from achieving all he had.
Bill Russell's coaching tenures were not as successful, but his contributions to the basketball world will never be forgotten. Rest in peace, legend!
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