BOSTON (AP) – The most decorated man in NBA history will give the public the chance to own some of the most treasured memories of his Hall of Fame career.
Bill Russell announced Thursday that he is donating hundreds of items from his personal collection, including trophies, rings, basketballs, jerseys, letters, photos and other memorabilia. The articles cover his 13-year career as a player and coach for the Boston Celtics, and also feature memorabilia chronicling his work during the civil rights movement and beyond.
Highlights of the treasure include the first (1957) and last (1969) of 11 NBA-record championship rings, which he won in Boston, four of his five NBA MVP trophies and his Olympic gold medal in American men’s basketball in 1956.
“There are a few photos that I’ll keep to myself, but the rest I’ll share with the world,” Russell said in a video statement.
The sale will be led by Hunt Auctions, who oversaw the auctions of top sportsmen such as Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Roberto Clemente, Gale Sayers, Johnny Unitas.
The auction is tentatively scheduled for Boston this fall or winter.
Russell said another reason he decided to sell the items was to provide a portion of the proceeds to the Boston-based nonprofit MENTOR, which he co-founded more than three decades ago. The group’s goal is to strengthen mentoring relationships.
An additional donation will be made to Boston Celtics United for Social Justice, which focuses on addressing racial and social inequalities in the Boston area.
Hunt Auctions chairman Dave Hunt said his group is honored to manage Russell’s collection.
“There are not many people at Bill Russell’s level. The air is getting really thin, ”Hunt said. “There are just certain names of certain players who transcend the sport, who have changed the sport.”
It’s unclear how much any of Russell’s items will bring in, but similar auctions overseen by Hunt have delivered large numbers. Most notable was in 2019 when a rare game-worn Babe Ruth Yankees road jersey from 1928-30 sold for $ 5.64 million. The auctioneer said it broke the record for the most expensive sports memorabilia sold.
Hunt notes that among the items Russell keeps is the Presidential Medal of Freedom presented to him in 2011 by Barack Obama.
There’s also the letter Jackie Robinson wrote to Russell after he and other Black Celtics players boycotted a game in Lexington, Ky., After being denied service at a hotel.
“It’s just an amazing piece and it’s very hard to put a dollar value on an item like this,” Hunt said. “But what better way to share this than directly from the person who participated, and to do good as well as through this offer.”
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