Bill Russell, a celebrated USF alumnus, civil rights activist, and 11-time NBA champion, died at the age of 88 & Nichelle Nichols, who played Lt. Uhura on 'Star Trek,' has died at the age of 89.

 Bill Russell, a celebrated USF alumnus, civil rights activist, and 11-time NBA champion, died at the age of 88.

Bill Russell, a celebrated USF alumnus, civil rights activist, and 11-time NBA champion, died at the age of 88.

Russell abruptly retired from both playing and coaching following the 1969 World Series. While he coached the Seattle SuperSonics for four years in the 1970s and dabbled in broadcasting, he was most active in politics after his career. Racism was a recurring theme in Russell's life, from his family's decision to relocate from Monroe, Louisiana to Oakland when he was a child to discriminatory treatment from journalists and fans.

Russell skipped his own jersey retirement in 1972 and Hall of Fame induction in 1975 due to resentment over his treatment in Boston. He did, however, attend a ceremony in 1999 to re-retire his jersey, 27 years after the original event. The NBA renamed the Finals MVP award the "Bill Russell Award" in 2009, a fitting honor for a man who went 21-0 in winner-take-all games during his collegiate, Olympic, and professional careers.

Russell was regarded as a recluse for much of his post-retirement years, but he did occasionally take to social media in his final years, posting about basketball and his travels. "Bill Russell helped put USF on the map in the 1950s," said current university president Rev. Paul J. Fitzgerald. "We are grateful not only for his numerous contributions to our community, the athletic department, and Jesuit education, but also for his courage and commitment to advancing justice on and off the court."

The St. Louis Hawks selected him with the second overall pick in the 1956 NBA Draft, owing to his credentials. He was quickly traded to the Boston Celtics, where he established himself as one of the all-time great professional basketball players.

Russell's NBA career didn't begin until midway through the 1956-57 season, when he chose to remain an amateur in order to compete in the Melbourne Olympics. There, he was instrumental in leading the United States men's basketball team to a gold medal.

In his first playoff game with the Celtics, he grabbed 31 rebounds in a win over the Syracuse Royals in the Eastern Division Finals. And in a winner-take-all NBA Finals Game 7 against St. Louis, he grabbed 32 rebounds as the Celtics won their first championship by a two-point double overtime margin.

Russell quickly became synonymous with winning in Boston, despite facing racial abuse from fans. Despite defeating the Celtics in the 1957 Finals, Boston went on to win the next eight titles. The Celtics defeated St. Louis in seven games again in 1960, and while the 122-103 victory in the decisive game did not require two overtimes as it did in 1957, Russell racked up 35 rebounds.

Russell's championship performances were legendary throughout his career; he had 31 points and 38 rebounds in Game 5 of the 1961 Finals, securing another title over the Hawks. In the 1962 NBA Finals, the Celtics faced the Los Angeles Lakers for the first time, and Russell collected 40 rebounds, matching his own single-game NBA Finals record, in a Game 7 overtime victory. In a seven-game series against the Lakers in 1966, he led the Celtics to a 95-93 victory with 25 points and a game-high 32 rebounds.

The Philadelphia 76ers and longtime rival Wilt Chamberlain ended Boston's dominance in 1967, the first of Russell's three seasons as a player-coach. Only Buddy Jeannette of the 1947-48 Baltimore Bullets, another player-coach, has led his team to a championship; Russell did it in both of his final two seasons. Even though the Vietnam War and other off-court issues distracted Russell during his final season, he led the Celtics to a seven-game NBA Finals victory over the Lakers, combining with John Havlicek. Russell had 26 rebounds in his final professional game, a 108-106 road win that secured Boston's place as the first team to win the NBA Finals after losing the first two games.

Bill Russell, an 11-time NBA champion who grew up in the Bay Area and won two NCAA Tournament Championships at the University of San Francisco (USF), died peacefully on Sunday at the age of 88.

Russell will be remembered as one of the greatest basketball players of all time and a pivotal figure in the civil rights movement.

He did not follow the typical path to sports stardom. Stars like LeBron James are defined as transcendent generational talents from an early age, but colleges ignored Russell, who grew up in Oakland and moved to the city with his family when he was eight. He only played varsity basketball his senior year at McClymonds High School after spending his junior year on the JV team.

That all changed at the University of South Florida, the only school to offer him a scholarship, where he competed as a high jumper and became the starting center under head coach Phil Woolpert after a successful freshman year. He was the leading scorer on a 14-7 team his sophomore year, then led the Dons to back-to-back national titles in 1955 and 1956, averaging more than 20 points and 20 rebounds per game in each of those seasons.

Russell's three children, William Jr., Jacob, and Karen, survive him. They were born during his first marriage to Rose. He married three more times after that. His final marriage was to Jeannine, a competitive golfer 33 years his junior. Jeannine was by his side when he passed away.

Nichelle Nichols, who played Lt. Uhura on 'Star Trek,' has died at the age of 89.

Nichelle Nichols, who played Lt. Uhura on 'Star Trek,' has died at the age of 89.

"His face became very, very serious," she remembered. "And he asked, 'What are you on about?'" And I replied, 'Well, I just told Gene yesterday that I'm leaving the show after the first year because I've been offered... And he stopped me, saying, 'You can't do that.' I was taken aback. 'Don't you realize what this man has accomplished?' he asked. For the first time, we are being seen as we should be seen around the world. 'Do you realize that this is the only show that my wife Coretta and I will allow our small children to stay up and watch?' he says. "I couldn't say anything."

Nichols returned to the series, which aired from 1965 to 1969. She also appeared in six subsequent feature films, including Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, in which she was promoted to commander.

'Star Trek' Celebrates 50 Years With Much More Than A 5-Year Mission


Nichols also assisted in the recruitment of astronauts Sally Ride, Judith Resnik, Guion Bluford, and others for many years. She also founded her own science foundation, Women in Motion.

"Many actors become stars, but only a few stars can move a nation," actress Lynda Carter, who played Wonder Woman on television in the 1970s, tweeted. "Nichelle Nichols demonstrated Black women's extraordinary power and paved the way for a better future for all women in media." Thank you very much, Nichelle. "We'll miss you."

"I shall have more to say about the trailblazing, incomparable Nichelle Nichols, who shared the bridge with us as Lt. Uhura of the USS Enterprise," George Takei, who costarred on Star Trek as helmsman Hikaru Sulu, wrote on Twitter. "My heart is heavy today, my dearest friend, and my eyes shine like the stars you now rest among."

He also shared a photo of himself and a longtime friend, both of whom were flashing the Vulcan greeting and writing, "We lived long and prospered together."

Grace Dell Nichols was born in a Chicago suburb where her father was the mayor. She grew up singing and dancing and aspired to be a musical theater star. Her first break came in the 1961 musical Kicks and Co., a satire of Playboy magazine. She starred in Carmen Jones, a Chicago stock company production, and Porgy and Bess in New York.

'To me, the highlight and pinnacle of my life as a singer, actor, and dancer/choreographer was to star on Broadway,' she told NPR in 2011, adding that as her popularity on Star Trek grew, she began to receive other offers. "I decided to leave, travel to New York, and make my way onto the Broadway stage."

Nichols claimed she informed Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry of her intention to resign. "He was furious about it. And he told me to take the weekend and think about what I'm trying to accomplish with this show. You're an essential component and very important to it."

For Martin Luther King Jr. Day, 'Lt. Uhura' Reveals How Rev. King Told Her To Stay On 'Star Trek'


For Martin Luther King Jr. Day, 'Lt. Uhura' Reveals How Rev. King Told Her To Stay On 'Star Trek'

So she went to an NAACP fundraiser in Beverly Hills that weekend and was asked to meet a man who claimed to be her number one fan: Martin Luther King, Jr.

"He complimented me on the way I'd created the character. I thanked him and said something along the lines of, 'Dr. King, I wish I could be marching with you.' 'No, no, no,' he said. No, you don't get it. We don't require you... to march. You're on the march. You are an example of what we are fighting for.' So I told him, "Thank you so much." I'm also going to miss my co-stars."

Nichelle Nichols, best known for her role as Star Trek's communications officer Lieutenant Uhura, died Saturday night in Silver City, New Mexico. She was 89 years old at the time.

"I regret to inform you that a great light in the firmament no longer shines for us as it has for so many years," her son Kyle Johnson wrote on the website. "Her light, like the ancient galaxies now visible for the first time, will, however, remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn from, and be inspired by."

Nichols was one of the first Black women featured in a major television series, and her role as Lt. Nyota Uhura on the original TV series was groundbreaking: an African American woman whose name came from Uhuru, the Swahili word for "freedom."

"Here I was in the 23rd century projecting what should have been quite simple," Nichols told NPR in 2011. "We're aboard a spaceship. I was the chief of communications. On a starship, you are the fourth in command. They didn't see this as happening until, oh, the 23rd century. Both children and adults saw it as now."

In 1968, Nichols made headlines when Uhura shared an intimate kiss with Captain James T. Kirk (played by William Shatner) in an episode called "Plato's Stepchildren." Their interracial kiss on the lips was groundbreaking, and it was one of the first such moments on television.

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