Before Bill Russell passed away last year, the Boston Celtics legend auctioned some of basketball’s most prized memorabilia. Hunt Auctions sold 429 lots of Russell’s iconic career in the NBA.
Two of the most sought-after pieces that had basketball fans salivating were the championship rings. Russell owned 11 as a player and two as a coach. However, only the first and last of the 11 were sold.
Bill Russell’s first ring reached $705,000 while the last one was sold at $558,125. The last jersey he wore before retiring fetched $1.1 million while his 1956 Olympic gold medal was auctioned off for $587,500.
Dave Hunt, who runs and operates Hunt Auctions, informed the press that all the items sold combined for $7.4 million. Part of the proceeds of the auction went to MENTOR and Boston Celtics United for Social Justice. MENTOR was co-founded by the late five-time NBA MVP while the other organization is a social activism group that the Celtics are involved with.
Bill Russell is considered by many to be the greatest winner in American Sports History. He led San Francisco to two NCAA titles and played a starring role in the US Basketball’s 1956 gold medal-winning squad.
Russell was one of the biggest reasons why the Celtics dominated the NBA in the ‘50s and the ‘60s. He carried Boston to 10 straight NBA Finals appearances, winning nine of them, including eight straight titles. “Russ” added two more as a player and coach in 1968 and 1969.
11 titles in 13 years is mind-boggling. It’s the kind of dominance that will likely not be replicated by any player in any of the four major US sports.
The work of the greatest winner in arguably all sports may not even be on the basketball court. Bill Russell was a pillar of society. At a time when racism ran rampant, Russell was a steady but impactful social activist.
The NBA’s Social Justice Award is named after Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but the Laker great has nothing but praise for what Russell stood for back then.
After his passing, the NBA has belatedly tried to honor the man who has cast a large shadow on the basketball court and also off of it. The league retired Bill Russell's jersey #6 and has dedicated this season to a celebration of his life and work.
Who bought Bill Russell's rings?
Shaquille O’Neal declared on national TV his interest in purchasing the championship rings. Here’s what he had to say when he found out the rings were going to be auctioned off:
“I’d like to take some of that stuff off their hands. To be able to have all 11 of those rings, nobody’s outbidding me on that one.”
Hunt Auctions does not divulge the identity of the buyers without express consent. Privacy is a big and crucial part of doing business with them.
Shaq has not said anything about acquiring the two Bill Russell championship rings that were sold. He could have purchased them or he could have just watched with interest as the entire 11-ring collection was not for sale.
American sports’ ultimate winner may have passed away, but his accomplishments and impact still resonate today. The new owners of those two championship rings can cherish the story and the meaning behind that coveted hardware.