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‘He was a true champion’: Celtics honor Bill Russell before season opener

“Our gratitude is endless.”

Philadelphia 76ers v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

The Celtics paid tribute to legend Bill Russell before their matchup with the 76ers at TD Garden on Tuesday.

First, they showed a highlight reel that featured signature moments from Russell’s career and life.

Jaylen Brown then took the microphone and shared what made Russell – who died in July at age 88 – so great.

“He was a true champion, both on and off the floor, and our gratitude is endless,” Brown said. “I started off by saying that Bill Russell was a great man. In closing, Bill Russell was the greatest of men, and the NBA, this organization, this world, was very lucky to have him. May he rest In peace.”

Porsha Olayiwola then delivered a poem called “Sestina,” in which she lauded Russell for having “more rings than fingers” and highlighted his off-court successes as well.

They then played another video, as Aloe Blacc performed in Russell’s honor, belting: “You gotta believe, believe, believe, believe that anything’s possible!”

Public address announcer Eddie Palladino encouraged fans to cheer one more time, and they gave a massive ovation.

The Celtics are also honoring Russell by wearing new “City Edition” uniforms Tuesday. The 11 gold icons on the side of the jersey pays homage to his 11 titles with the Celtics.

Every NBA player will sport a black No. 6 patch throughout the season. The TD Garden court features a big 6 just outside the paint. The 6 in the rafters is illuminated throughout the night.

Both Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla and 76ers coach Doc Rivers spoke pregame about Russell’s contributions to the game and beyond.

“He means more than basketball,” Mazzulla said before his first game as a head coach. “He leaves a legacy on the court, and he leaves a legacy off the court.”

Rivers said Russell meant a great deal to him even before Rivers arrived in Boston, and that only increased once he did.

In addition to his off-court triumphs, Russell still doesn’t get enough credit for his winning ways in Rivers’ eyes. It wasn’t just in the NBA, Rivers noted, as Russell won everywhere he went.

He’ll always cherish their interaction when the Celtics captured their 17th championship in 2008.

“The thing I’ll remember the most is how emotional he was when we won it,” Rivers said.

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