Transcript of Obama's comments on Russell
When Bill Russell was in junior high, he was cut from his basketball team. (Laughter.) He got better after that. (Laughter.) He led the University of San Francisco to two championships. In 13 seasons with the Boston Celtics, he won 11 championships -- a record unmatched in any sport. Won two while also serving as the team’s coach. And so happens, he also was the first African American ever to hold such a position as a coach in a Major League sports team of any sort. More than any athlete of his era, Bill Russell came to define the word "winner."
And yet, whenever someone looks up at all 6 feet 9 inches of Bill Russell -- I just did -- (laughter) -- I always feel small next to him -- and asks, "Are you a basketball player?" -- surprisingly, he gets this more than you think, this question -- (laughter) -- he says, "No." He says, "That’s what I do, that’s not what I am. I'm not a basketball player. I am a man who plays basketball."
Bill Russell, the man, is someone who stood up for the rights and dignity of all men. He marched with King; he stood by Ali. When a restaurant refused to serve the black Celtics, he refused to play in the scheduled game. He endured insults and vandalism, but he kept on focusing on making the teammates who he loved better players, and made possible the success of so many who would follow. And I hope that one day, in the streets of Boston, children will look up at a statue built not only to Bill Russell the player, but Bill Russell the man.
(Forsberg's note: Check out Paul Flannery's story in Boston Magazine for more on why Russell deserves a statue)
Play Podcast ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter weighs in on the Panthers' WR situation, Julian Edelman's future with the Patriots, Vince Wilfork's decision to ask for his release and more.
Play Podcast "Spanning the Globe" features ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss, Yahoo! Sports' Eric Edholm and ESPN LA 710's Mark Willard.
Play Podcast NFL Films' Greg Cosell covers the Eagles' addition of Darren Sproles, Chip Kelly's offense, the Patriots' signing of Darrelle Revis and more.
Play Podcast ESPN NFL analyst Herm Edwards covers Darrelle Revis' new deal, concerns with Josh McCown, the Jets' potential, whether a team would try to recruit Tony Gonzalez and more.
Play Podcast Grantland's Bill Simmons discusses the state of the Lakers, Phil Jackson's future, the perception of Rajon Rondo, Doc Rivers' impact on the Clippers and more.
Play Podcast Red Sox manager John Farrell talks about whether he expected his team to make such a turnaround in one season, his relationship with his players, fans' expectations for the squad and more.