Bill Russell is an eccentric request from Tim Duncan, his favorite athlete.
Basketball is mourning the departure of Bill Russell, an NBA and Boston Celtics legend who won eleven championships in thirteen years, and who said goodbye this Sunday at the age of 88. The death of the top American basketball champion mobilized the entire league. But the news has to do with another NBA legend who will be said to be present at his funeral.
This is Tim Duncan, figure of the San Antonio Spurs. Five-time NBA champion, two-time league MVP and Olympic medalist with the United States. Duncan’s career had all the toppings and, if anything was missing, it was having the privilege of being part of the latest tribute to one of the greats in basketball history.
Bill Russell, legend of the Celtics, has died at the age of 88. (AP photo / Michael Dwyer, file)
And it is that, at the express request of Bill Russell, Tim Duncan will be one of those in charge of carrying his coffin on the day of his funeral. The news exploded more than a decade ago, but the time for Duncan to keep his word is only now. Let’s look at the story of the quirky request.
To start telling the story, we need to talk about another death: that of Jackie Robinson, a longtime baseball player who played much of his professional career for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Robinson said goodbye in 1972, after a long fight against diabetes. One of the main actors in his wake was Bill Russell himself.
Jackie Robinson and his admiration for Bill Russell, who carried his coffin in 1972.
The basketball player was one of Robinson’s great idols, who while suffering from the disease did not hesitate to pass on one of his last wishes to his wife, Rachel. The baseball player was a great Russell admirer, and that’s why he decided that the Celtics man should be one of those in charge of carrying his coffin. Upon receiving the order, Russell couldn’t help but look surprised, but he didn’t hesitate, saying he was present at the funeral.
This unpublished story, in fact, was revealed by Russell, in dialogue with Tim Duncan. Around the year 2009, the NBA multiple champion had the opportunity to converse with the figure of the Spurs, and commented: “Do you know Jackie Robinson’s name? The day after his death, his wife called me and said, ‘I want you to be one of the coffin bearers at Jackie’s funeral..
Russell at the massive Robinsons’ wake. (Photo: Bettman)
This is where the explanation comes in. It appears that what happened to Robinson set a precedent for the basketball player, who added a request to his conversation with Duncan. He added: “I said that of course, but I asked why. He told me I was Jackie’s favorite athlete and it’s the same I feel about you.“.
Duncan’s reaction was similar to Bill’s in October 1972 when he received the call from Rachel Robinson. The native of the Virgin Islands was surprised, but did not hesitate to accept the request. Bill considered him his favorite athlete, and therefore Duncan will be part of the funeral procession.
In that interview, Russell was tasked with throwing flowers at Tim Duncan, and he even pitched: “I don’t think there’s anyone in the league who can defend him one-on-one … A guy like Tim Duncan gives the coach a wide range of things he can do. Tim can play with anyone, and there are a lot of kids who can’t. “
Far from being left behind, Tim returned the courtesies, replying: “I love that you have a basketball mind. You never know about people until you can sit down and talk to them, so it was really fun learning from you. “
Duncan said yes years ago. (Photo AP / Tony Gutierrez, File)
The truth is, the two NBA leaders are left with the desire to share another of those speeches. Bill Russell had to say goodbye and Duncan’s latest gesture will have to do with carrying his coffin, just like the Celtics legend did when Robinson died. The request, which begins to become a traditionthrills NBA fans.