‘Bill Russell was the greatest of men’: Jaylen Brown offers powerful words on late Celtics legend before season opener

"This world was very lucky to have him. May he rest in peace."

Bill Russell
Hall of Famer and former Boston Celtics great Bill Russell is honored prior to an NBA basketball game between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers. AP Photo/Charles Krupa

The Celtics honored late legend Bill Russell in a variety of ways on Tuesday, prior to their season opener against the 76ers.

Earlier in the preseason, the Celtics unveiled their new court, which features Russell’s number 6 — now retired league-wide — in the paint underneath the basket. On Tuesday, they broke out new jerseys designed in tandem with Russell himself prior to his death on July 31. The team also brought in Boston poet laureate Porsha Olayiwola, as well as musician Aloe Blacc.

Finally, after warm-ups, the Celtics turned down the lights and gave a microphone to Jaylen Brown, who delivered a powerful speech.


“Bill Russell was a great man,” Brown said. “But what did that mean? What defined his greatness? Who he was as a mentor, a father, a member of his community, and most certainly his 11 championships here in Boston, both playing and coaching. But undoubtedly, Bill Russell was a great man for what and who he stood for. During the racism of peak tension in our society, he represented a type of nobility and honor that transcended sports. The amount of respect he receives from his people will live on eternally, and I’m grateful to be able to shake his hand.

“He was a true champion both on and off the floor, and our gratitude is endless. I started off by saying Bill Russell was a great man. In closing, Bill Russell was the greatest of men in the NBA, in this organization, this world was very lucky to have him. May he rest in peace.”

Before the game, a reporter asked interim Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla about Russell.

“He means more than basketball,” Mazzulla said. “I think there’s a legacy on the court, and there’s a legacy off the court for what he fought for, and for how he represented the Celtics. And I think that’s the thing to focus on the most is everybody in our organization is trying to impact the Celtics and impact the community the way that he did.


“So that’s how we can focus on that and I think that’s a great segue into the game tonight.”


This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on Boston.com