Bill Russell to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

by February 15, 2011

Barack Obama will honor the former Celtics great at the White House today. USA Today reports: “Russell is the first person from the NBA to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He’ll join more than a dozen other recipients, including baseball Hall of Famer Stan Musial. ‘It’s very flattering because I’ve tried to live my life doing what I think is right and for the right reasons and one of the reasons was never to get accolades or honors,’ Russell told CNN anchor John King on Tuesday in an interview that will air on NBATV’s True NBA news magazine show in late March … Whether winning championships, watching [Martin Luther] King’s speech or teaching basketball to an integrated group of kids in Jackson, Miss., during a turbulent period for civil rights in 1963, Russell never considered himself a part of history. He said he was experiencing current events, viewing race, athletics and life through his unique prism. Asked if I meant even more that a black president will honor him, Russell told King, ‘I told him (President Obama) that it was great that he was the first black president but that’s not what I liked most about him β€” not that he was a black president but that he was president and that he reached the top of his field on intelligence, ingenuity and hard work.’ Russell enjoys telling stories and they are often punctuated by the high-pitched Russell laugh, beginning deep in his chest.”