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Tom Brady remembers fellow New England icon Bill Russell

“He had just a great presence about him,” the Bucs quarterback said Monday of the late Celtics legend.
Bucs quarterback Tom Brady's seven Super Bowl championships remain four shy of the number of NBA titles won by fellow New England icon Bill Russell, who died Sunday at 88.
Bucs quarterback Tom Brady's seven Super Bowl championships remain four shy of the number of NBA titles won by fellow New England icon Bill Russell, who died Sunday at 88. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Aug. 1|Updated Aug. 1

A day after Celtics legend and civil-rights activist Bill Russell’s death at 88, New England’s second-winningest sports icon remembered the 11-time NBA champion.

“I knew him pretty well,” Tom Brady said following the Bucs’ practice Monday morning at AdventHealth Training Center.

“I had a lot of time up there in Boston and got to know him, and he was a very impactful figure, even back to my early days with the Patriots. My second year of training camp, he came and spoke to our team. Really an imposing figure.”

A 6-foot-10 Louisiana native who ultimately transcended sports with his unapologetic stand for civil rights, Russell’s 11 NBA championships are four more than Brady has won in the NFL.

While skeptics will note Russell won his titles in an era (1956-69) when the NBA had no more than a dozen teams, he also led the University of San Francisco to consecutive NCAA championships, helped the U.S. win a gold medal at the 1956 Olympics and even led McClymonds High in Oakland, California, to a pair of state titles.

Bill Russell, left, holds a corsage sent to the dressing room as he celebrates with coach Red Auerbach after the Boston Celtics defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in 1966 to win their eighth straight NBA Championship. Russell anchored a Celtics dynasty that won 11 titles in 13 years.
Bill Russell, left, holds a corsage sent to the dressing room as he celebrates with coach Red Auerbach after the Boston Celtics defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in 1966 to win their eighth straight NBA Championship. Russell anchored a Celtics dynasty that won 11 titles in 13 years. [ ANONYMOUS | AP ]

As a result, he is widely considered the greatest winner in the history of American team sports, not to mention a pioneer for civil rights on the major sports landscape.

“He had just a great presence about him,” Brady said, “and obviously what he overcame in his career was pretty unbelievable, and (Russell’s death Sunday) was a sad day.”

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