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In ancient Greece, the greatest men were immortalized by having statues erected in their likeness. In the world of Boston sports, there may not be a man more deserving of this honor than Celtic great Bill Russell. In May it was announced that Russell, a winner of 11 NBA championships, would finally be honored with a statue in city where he won all those titles. Now the location of the statue has finally been determined.
Next spring, the statue will stand on the south side of City Hall Plaza in an open, bricked area. The chosen location is meant to be a reflection Russell’s outstanding work on and off the floor of the hardwood. Russell was not only one of the greatest players in NBA history, but was also a civil rights activist. He has also been a supporter of children and education. He currently is a part of a state-mentoring organization called the Mass Mentoring Project that has helped more than 23,000 students as well.
In February, Russell was presented with the great honor of the Medal of Freedom. When President Barack Obama presented the 77-year-old with his medal, he said Russell deserved a statue in Boston. When the president speaks, people listen.
The design of the statue has not yet been determined, but three local artists have been selected as finalists to develop ideas for how the statue will look. The finalists are Fern Cunningham, creator of the Monument to Harriet Tubman Boston’s South End; Antonio Mendez, who designed the Players Statue outside Fenway Park; and Ann Hirsch, of Somerville, who has done work for the National Constitution Center.
Cunningham, Mendez and Hirsch viewed the site for the first time on July 11. On Oct. 10, these three will have to present their ideas to not only Russell but also the Bill Russell Legacy Committee.
Managing partner of the Boston Celtics Steve Pagliuca said:
“The committee is asking the artist to design it so that people can sit, reflect, and think about the contributions Bill made,’’ said Pagliuca. “We want it to be interactive, not just a walk-by.’’
Pagliuca said that the statue will be paid for with public and private donations but the entire cost will remain unknown until the design has been determined. Mayor Thomas Menino said that the installation of the statue will come parallel to the renovations to the plaza.
In his 13 years with the Celtics, the 6-10 Russell was the face of the winningest franchise in the NBA. He was the first black head coach of a major professional sports team and was remembered for a number of colossal battles with fellow NBA legend Wilt Chamberlain.
Mayor Menino said about the location of the statue:
“Bill is very pleased with it. He’s been in Boston to look at several locations,’’ he said, “Thousands and thousands of young people travel it every year.’’
Russell is now one step closer to Boston sports immortality alongside the likes of Bobby Orr, Ted Williams and Celtics patriarch, Red Auerbach.