Celtics legend Bill Russell to auction off prized memorabilia later this year

Russell says he will sell "a large portion" of his collection, including two championship rings he won with the Celtics.

Bill Russell Celtics
David Hunt, president of Hunt Auctions, talks about The Bill Russell collection next to one of Russell's jerseys. The Celtics legend's collection will be auctioned off later this year. David L Ryan/Globe Staff
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Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell’s greatness has already given a tremendous amount to the sports world, both on and off the basketball court.

Now, the 11-time NBA champion and influential activist wants to share a little bit more.

Russell announced in a tweet Thursday that he is auctioning off a “large portion of his personal collection” from his NBA career as a player and coach as well as his civil rights work.

The Associated Press reported the sale will be conducted by Hunt Auctions, which has overseen auctions of Joe DiMaggio, Roberto Clemente, and Red Sox great Ted Williams.


“There’s not a lot of folks at Bill Russell’s level. The air gets real thin,” said Dave Hunt, President of Hunt Auctions. “There’s just certain names of certain players that just transcend the sport, that changed the sport.”

Highlights of the collection will reportedly include the first (1957) and last (1969) of Russell’s 11 NBA championship rings, four of his five NBA MVP trophies, his 1956 Olympic gold medal and his Celtics warmup jacket. The collection also includes non-basketball items relating to his work in the civil rights movement.

“There are a few pictures I’ll keep for myself, but the rest I will share with the world,” Russell said in a statement.

The Celtics Hall-of-Famer reportedly said he will keep the Presidential Medal of Freedom he received in 2011 from Barack Obama as well as a letter written to him by Jackie Robinson after Russell and two other Black Celtics boycotted a game in 1961 after being denied service at a segregated shop in Lexington, Kentucky.

The selling price for Russell’s available items remains unclear, but past Hunt auctions have included some incredibly lucrative transactions. The group oversaw the sale of what reportedly remains the most expensive piece of sports memorabilia ever sold: a game-worn jersey of Babe Ruth’s from the late 1920’s that netted $5.64 million.


A portion of the proceeds will go to the Boston-based nonprofit MENTOR, which Russell co-founded more than three decades ago, and as well as the Boston Celtics United for Social Justice.

The auction is tentatively scheduled for Boston this fall or winter.


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