It's hard to see the word 'championship' without thinking of Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell. Winning a title in 11 of his 13 years in the NBA, his accomplishments make the San Antonio Spurs' 20-year run look like child's play.
The unfortunate passing of the man who revolutionized the game on Sunday led to the world celebrating his life and paying tribute to his immense impact on everyone. Coach Gregg Popovich and fellow NBA legends David Robinson and Manu Ginobili were among some within the Spurs family to pay their respects.
By simply being who he was as a player, Russell was one of the most influential people in league history. But it was his off-court impact as a fighter for civil rights and social change that really set him apart and inspired men like David Robinson and Coach Popovich to do the same.
Bill Russell was Tim Duncan's biggest cheerleader
In 2009, Russell sat down for a one-on-one interview with The Big Fundamental in a feature for NBA.com. At the time, Duncan had already won four NBA titles and was seeking a ring for his thumb.
"It's kind of eerie, the similarities we've had in our lives and careers," said Duncan to Russell. "I love that you're a basketball mind."
"We have a lot in common," responded Russell. "[And] I find it very flattering." Russell then used another legendary sports pioneer's name to pay the ultimate compliment to Duncan.
"Jackie Robinson. The day after he died, his wife called me and said 'I want you to be a pallbearer at Jackie's funeral.' I said, 'of course, but can I ask why?' She said, 'you were Jackie's favorite athlete.' Because of the way you conduct yourself, I feel the same way about you."
Russell will forever live on in name every time someone wins the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award, but more importantly, his legacy will carry on in the world forever.