• Bill Russell, who with the Boston Celtics won 11 championships during his career and served as the first Black head coach of any U.S. professional sports team, died yesterday. He was 88.
During his NBA career, Russell was a five-time MVP winner and a 12-time All-Star. He also won two championships while at the University of San Francisco and captained the US team that won the Olympic gold medal at the 1956 Games.
The Boston Globe describes Russell as "the cornerstone of basketball’s greatest dynasty and an exemplar of racial harmony and progress," though it also reports that "his front-and-center prominence made him both an icon and an irritant in a city that was unaccustomed to a visible and vocal Black man and that was less than welcoming to the centerpiece of its most successful sports team. His home in suburban Reading was vandalized by intruders who destroyed his trophies, painted racial slurs on the walls, and defecated in the beds."
Russell, the Globe writes, "who was in the prime of his career during the civil rights movement of the ’60s, was a role model for African Americans who appreciated both his athletic prowess and his unabashed candor on social issues at a time when outspoken Black men often were considered 'uppity' or ungrateful."
In 2011, Russell was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor … remarkable for someone who earlier in his life had an FBI file that referred to him as “an arrogant Negro."
• Nichelle Nichols, who leapt to fame as chief communications officer Lt. Nyota Uhura on the original "Star Trek" Tv series and six subsequent feature films, has passed away. She was 89.
Nichols reportedly helped to name her character - "Uhura" means "freedom" in Swahili, apparently - and also was known for participating (with William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk) in one of the first interracial kisses ever shown on television. And, when she was considering leaving the series after the first season, she reportedly was talked out of it by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was a "Star Trek" fan who felt it was important for young Black children to see someone of their race in a non-menial role on a major TV series.