Celtics great Bill Russell died Sunday at the age of 88, according to an announcement on his Twitter account.

Russell passed away with his wife Jeannie by his side, according to the tweet. A cause of death was not disclosed. A memorial service will be announced.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in a statement called Russell "the greatest champion in all of team sports."

"Bill stood for something much bigger than sports: the values of equality, respect, and the inclusion that he stamped into the DNA of our league," Silver wrote. "At the height of his athletic career, Bill advocated for vigorously for civil rights and social justice, a legacy he passed down to generations of NBA players who followed in his footsteps."

After winning a gold medal with the 1956 U.S. basketball team, he joined the Celtics and led the team to 11 NBA championships including 8 straight from 1958 to 1966. He became the first Black coach in NBA history when he succeeded Red Auerbach as a player-coach.

Leading by Example

After leaving the Celtics, Russell coached the Seattle Supersonics and Sacramento Kings and joined ABC and TBS for commentary during NBA games. He also hosted Saturday Night Live in 1979, and played a judge on an episode of Miami Vice.

Russell's favorite role was that of motivator and speaker. He helped Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant end their feud in 2006. Russell was a member of the founding class of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame, and the NBA's Most Valuable Player award was renamed in his honor in 2009. In 2011 President Barack Obama presented him with a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The City of Boston in 2013 unveiled a statue in his honor at City Hall Plaza. The statue is surrounded by 11 platforms each with a word and quote from Russell in honor of his achievements.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNH

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