During the February ceremony to give Celtics basketball legend Bill Russell the Presidential Medal of Honor, President Obama suggested the City of Boston build a statue in his honor. Turns out the city listened and is doing just that.
Yesterday, Boston Mayor Tom Menino and other city officials announced that a statue in honor of Bill Russell will be built outside of the City Hall Plaza. It is a significant step for the city that the Louisiana-born Russell himself once referred to as a “flea market of racism.”
Though Bill Russell led the historic franchise to 11 championships in 13 seasons, his relationship with the city of Boston has been a highlight reel of his own. In 1972 when the city retired his jersey, Russell refused to attend the ceremony. He did attend the re-retirement ceremony in 1996 and shed tears in front of the packed house of fans at standing ovation.
According to The Associated Press, Bill Russell and the Bill Russell Foundation have three artists have been named as finalists for the statue’s design.
The committee said the site was chosen because of its location near the Freedom Trail, Faneuil Hall and other tourist attractions. Officials said Russell, 77, and the committee approved the site for the statute to commemorate the former Celtic as a sports champion, human rights leader and youth mentoring advocate.
The committee said it will seek private donations for the statue and will launch a public fundraising campaign in the fall to coincide with the selection of the winning design.