Bill Russell recently held an auction for charity, selling off some major personal memorabilia. As a civil rights icon and the most decorated champion in sports history, one can only imagine how successful it was. Basketball fans everywhere were excited to participate but had some heavy competition as Shaquille O’Neal had some words to say about his eagerness to participate.
On TNT’s “Inside the NBA” on Tuesday, Shaq stated:
“To be able to have all 11 of those rings, nobody’s outbidding me on that one.”
There were 429 lots of his memorabilia and just 18 sold for over $5.3 million. The biggest seller was the jersey Bill Russell wore in Game 7 of the 1969 Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. It sold for $1.1 million.
Russell sold two of his NBA championship rings — the first ($705,000), and the last. His Hall of Fame ring, one of his two NCAA titles, his NBA 50th Anniversary ring, and the ring the league gave him for winning the most titles in professional sports history. Apart from his rings, other items on the block were his Olympic gold medal ($587,000), his law degree from Harvard (with the cap and gown he wore), a scrapbook page with a signed letter from Jackie Robinson thanking Russell for his participation in the 1961 NBA Boycott against segregated the state of Kentucky. There were many signed shoes, shorts, and shirts to top the whole deal off.
The historic champion pledged some of the auction proceeds to a group called MENTOR, which connects youth with advisers who provide them with opportunities they would otherwise miss. Bill Russell also donated to Boston Celtics United for Social Justice; fighting racial injustice in Boston.
“Potential is equally distributed; opportunity is not,” Bill explained. “The work that MENTOR does has a special place in my heart and I am honored to provide support in some small way.”
Bill Russell is an 11 time NBA Champion who marched in the civil rights movement alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and stood with Muhammad Ali when he was stripped of his heavyweight title for refusing to participate in the Vietnam War. One item noticeably left out of the auction was Bill Russell’s Presidential Medal of Freedom, which he received in 2011, and the autographed picture of himself and President Barack Obama.
When asked, auction house president David Hunt said “There’s no question this is one of the most significant athlete collections ever to come up for auction.”
Also Read: How many rings does Bill Russell have?