The long overdue statue celebrating the legacy of Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell will be unveiled on Boston City Hall Plaza on Nov. 1.
The afternoon event, before the Celtics play their 2013-14 season opener against the Milwaukee Bucks, will feature a speaking program emceed by TNT analyst Kenny Smith and will culminate with Russell unveiling his statue.
The event will feature an impressive guest list, including luminaries from the worlds of basketball, politics and music, all to celebrate the legacy that Russell left in Boston, both on and off the court.
Read on for more from the Celtics on the event and to view the guest list.
The official release from the Celtics:
A sculpture honoring William Felton “Bill” Russell designed by local artist Ann Hirsch in collaboration with Pressley Associates and with the Boston Art Commission will be unveiled on Boston City Hall Plaza. A special ceremony to honor him emceed by TNT NBA analyst Kenny Smith will include: Bill Russell- the Boston Celtics legend himself, Bill Russell’s daughter Karen Kenyatta Russell, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, co-owner, managing partner and Shamrock Foundation president Stephen Pagliuca, Celtics managing partner, governor, CEO and co-owner Wyc Grousbeck, Celtics managing partner and co-owner Bob Epstein, team president Rich Gotham, Congressman Joe Kennedy III, NBA commissioner David Stern, NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver along with Arnold “Red” Auerbach’s daughters Randy and Nancy Auerbach Collins. Other guests include: NFL icon and activist Jim Brown, MLB great Joe Morgan, MLB great Frank Robinson, NBA icon Julius “Dr. J” Erving, NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley, NBA Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor, NBA Hall of Famer Clyde “The Glide” Drexler, NBA Hall of Famer George “The Iceman” Gervin, NBA great Fred “Downtown” Brown, chairman of the Professional Basketball Club, LLC. Clay Bennett, co-founder and board member of The National Mentoring Partnership Geoff Boisi, CEO of the National Mentoring Partnership David Shapiro, CEO of the Mass Mentoring Partnership Marty Martinez, president and chief of operations for the Golden State Warriors Rick Welts, musical legend Johnny Mathis, musical icon Bill Withers, country music star Ron Harbin, former senior advisor to the President David Axelrod, Isabel Wilkerson and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Warmth of Other Suns, Pultizer Prize Winner Taylor Branch best known for his Martin Luther King Trilogy; RFK’s daughter, author and human rights activist Kerry Kennedy, LSU men’s basketball head coach and Celtics alumni Johnny Jones, Celtics alumni Emmette “Em” Bryant, Celtics alumni Togo Palazzi, Celtics alumni Ronnie Watts, Celtics alumni Rick Weitzman, Celtics legend Tommy Heinsohn, Celtics legend Sam Jones, Celtics legend Satch Sanders, Celtics legend Bill Walton, Celtics legend JoJo White, Celtics alumni Jim Loscutoff’s wife Lynn Loscutoff, Russell family friend MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, host of The Last Word, and Hollywood actress Alfre Woodard.
In 2011, President Barack Obama gave Bill Russell the highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. During the ceremony, President Obama said he hoped that Boston would build a statue of Russell, “I hope that one day in the streets of Boston, children will look up at a statue built not only to Bill Russell the player, but Bill Russell the man.”
“I think the President’s comments certainly catalyzed a lot of thoughts and efforts that were going on in the city,’’ Celtics Co-owner and President of the Shamrock Foundation Stephen Pagliuca, who collaborated extensively with Mayor Thomas M. Menino to honor Russell. “The Mayor has been the #1 biggest fan of this statue. So I think those comments really helped bring the Bill Russell Legacy Project Committee Members together to get this statue done. It’s so exciting because now it’s become a reality.”
The Bill Russell Statue was created by Ann Hirsch, a Somerville based artist. Hirsch’s approach focuses on the body, movement and traditional sculpture technique to create spaces for interaction that enhance the experience of a place. The artwork represents Bill Russell the whole man, honoring him as an athlete, coach, human rights activist, ground breaker and mentor. The larger than life sculpture of Russell is on a low base in game action, poised with basketball in hand about to pass the ball to a teammate. He aims towards a low-standing, open stone engraved with Mr. Russell's quote, "The most important measure of how good a game I'd played was how much better I'd made my teammates play." As visitors step up on the open base, ready to catch the pass, they become a teammate, not only in the game of basketball, but in continued advocacy for human rights and mentorship programming. Ten granite blocks, surround Russell for a total of 11 elements representing Mr. Russell’s 11 championships with the Boston Celtics. Each plinth features a key word and a corresponding quotation to illuminate the myriad of accomplishments spanning Mr. Russell’s career both on and off the court. The artwork is inscribed in a field of brick and granite pavers that reflect the proportions of a court.
“Mr. Russell’s legacy is vital to the story of this city in sports and in terms of human rights,” Ann Hirsch said. “I am proud and humbled to have been chosen to create this artwork and am especially thrilled that I will be able to work as a mentor myself by involving local children in my process through the Shamrock Foundation.”
In addition to erecting the statue of Russell, the Bill Russell Legacy Project, along with the Boston Celtics Shamrock Foundation and Mass Mentoring Partnership developed a Mentoring Grant program in Russell’s name to ensure his passion for mentoring children is carried on. The grant’s main objective is to expand the resources for mentoring programs in the city of Boston. In the grant’s inaugural year, over $50k in grants were awarded to the following programs: Adoption and Foster Care Mentoring, Generations, Inc. and The DREAM Program, Inc. Sculptures of children will be added in a second phase of the artwork as an extension of the mentorship program.
“I am happy to see the Celtics embrace mentoring and create this program that benefits children.” Bill Russell said. “My lifelong passion is to help the mentoring of children and the biggest honor of my career was to be Captain of the Boston Celtics.”
Co-chaired by Boston Celtics Managing Partner/Co-owner and President of the Boston Celtics Shamrock Foundation Stephen Pagliuca and Boston Philanthropist and Founder of the Bobby Sager Traveling Foundation and Roadshow Bobby Sager, the Bill Russell Legacy Committee includes Boston Mayor Tom Menino, Karen Russell and Russell’s former teammate Tommy Heinsohn. The Boston Celtics Shamrock Foundation established the Bill Russell Legacy Fund to act as the major funding vehicle for the project.
For more information about the artist and public art in Boston visit the Boston Art Commission’s website: http://www.publicartboston.com/. To learn more about the Bill Russell Legacy Project and to donate to the Legacy Fund, please visit www.billrusselllegacy.org.