WASHINGTON – President Obama announced this afternoon that former Celtics legend Bill Russell will be given the highest civilian honor.
Obama will name Russell as one of the recipients of a 2010 Medal of Freedom, according to a White House official. He joins a range of others, including former President George H. W. Bush, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, philanthropist Warren Buffett, poet Maya Angelou, and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
The medal is presented to individuals who have made contributions to the security or the national interests. It will be presented at a ceremony early next year.
Several other athletes have gotten the award, including Hank Aaron and Muhammad Ali, but Russell appears to be the first professional basketball player to be honored. But he’s not the first familiar to Boston fans. Ted Williams was given the award in 1991.
Baseball legend Stan “The Man” Musial is also being recognized this year.
Here is the entry on Russell sent out this afternoon by the White House:
Bill Russell is the former Boston Celtics’ Captain who almost single-handedly redefined the game of basketball. Russell led the Celtics to a virtually unparalleled string of eleven championships in thirteen years and was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player five times. The first African American to coach in the NBA—indeed he was the first to coach a major sport at the professional level in the United States—Bill Russell is also an impassioned advocate of human rights. He marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and has been a consistent advocate of equality.
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.