Seattle basketball icons mourn Bill Russell’s death

Russell coached the Sonics to their first playoff appearance in franchise history and spent his final years on Mercer Island.

SEATTLE — When you think of player Bill Russell, you think of Boston.

When you think of Bill Russell, the coach and elder statesmen for the game of basketball, you think of Seattle. Russell coached the NBA’s Supersonics for a time and spent his final years on Mercer Island.

On Sunday, the Seattle basketball community thought of him.

Seattle’s NBA icons remember him as someone who paved the way.

“His legacy is forever cemented,” said Jamal Crawford.

Crawford had spent the weekend bringing together the who’s who of Seattle basketball.

His Crawsover Pro-Am attracted the likes of Nate Robinson, Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren, Trae Young and Dejounte Murray.

Russell’s death affected many of them deeply.

“He was the definition of being an incredible basketball player, but an incredible times ten person,” Crawford said.

Crawford said his relationship with Russell has grown in recent years.

Russell coached the Seattle Sonics from 1973 to 1977, led the franchise to its first playoff appearance in 1975, and then spent the last 30 years of his life on Mercer Island.

“Just so wise. So brilliant. Every time you were around him, you felt like you were receiving wisdom,” Crawford said.

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Russell became part of the Seattle basketball community and was often spotted courtside at Seattle Storm games and the Crawsover League.

“He just had such an aura and presence about him. I remember he came here. He got a standing ovation as soon as he said came in.

But Russell’s legacy was even deeper than that.

“He showed us what it’s like to be a young, successful, black winner,” said former Rainier Beach star and former Boston Celtic Nate Robinson.

Robinson called him a crucial figure in the fight for civil rights.

“He gave us the strength to move forward because we were held back for so many years. We’ve been spat on, hit, whipped, dogs slapped on us and he’s been through it. He did that so we could run and walk and we could play,” said Robinson.

“His entire legacy time cannot, I believe, be matched. Everything he stood for, sitting with Muhammad Ali, sitting with Kareem Abdul-Jabaar and standing up for what they believed in, gave us hope. It gave us more drive. “Keep trying to do the right things,” Crawford added. Seattle basketball icons mourn Bill Russell’s death

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