Boston Will Get Its Bill Russell Statue in November
The Celtics will unveil a statue of the legendary Bill Russell at Government Center on Friday, November 1, in a star-studded ceremony before the season’s home opener, the team announced in a press release. It’s about damn time.
To consider why, in a world often overcrowded with bronze tributes to sports greats, the lack of a permanent tribute to Russell has been, well, a Bill Russell-shaped hole in the city’s landscape, read Paul Flannery’s 2010 piece in this magazine, “Give Bill Russell a Damn Statue!”
Russell had a conflicted relationship with the city and the racism he faced while he was here. For that reason and others—he’s not one for pomp and circumstance either–the statue isn’t really for his sake. Flannery writes:
Russell doesn’t need a statue for pride, ego, or validation. When I reached out to Karen, his daughter, she politely declined the invitation for an interview, offering, “Good luck with your piece.” This isn’t about Russell, or even the Celtics, although they are the caretakers of their history. This is about us.
The city of Boston has been known to get defensive about the old days. “We’re past that” is the operative phrase. Well, if that’s true, what better way to show it than by embracing this complex, fascinating, and proud man in some tangible way?
The Celtics, too, are emphasizing this aspect of Russell’s time in Boston in a promotional video about the statue. But that’s not to say we’re ignoring the other reasons to honor him—he won 11 championships, after all. Plus, if he squints, George Stephanopoulos might get confused and think Boston has a statue of Morgan Freeman outside its City Hall. But that’s just added benefit.