Bill Russell doing fine after collapsing during speaking event

bill-russell-1Boston Celtics officials said NBA Hall of Famer Bill Russell is doing OK after collapsing during a speaking engagement near Lake Tahoe, USA Today reported.

Team spokeswoman Heather Walker said the 80-year-old Russell felt faint after the morning fall at the Hyatt Regency resort in Incline Village but was scheduled to fly out Thursday night.

Witness Michael Rooney told The Associated Press that Russell was telling a story about Wilt Chamberlain to a roomful of Konica Minolta employees when he started to sway at the podium and then fell backward. Rooney says Russell seemed to be conscious as hotel personnel and first responders came to his aid. The meeting was cut short and attendees left.

Former NBA star Charles Barkley was at the American Century Championship on Thursday, and wished Russell a speedy recovery.

“He’s been a mentor to me for a long time. He’s just an amazing man. Obviously his basketball, that’s self-explanatory. I just hope he’s all right,” Barkley said.

The 80-year-old Russell has been a popular public speaker since retiring, conveying his “team-first” mentality to corporations and groups around the world.

The Boston Celtics honored Russell with a statue in Boston in November 2013.

Russell played center from 1956 to 1969, also serving as player-coach for three seasons. He was a five-time MVP, 11-time NBA champion and 12-time All-Star in his 13 seasons with the Celtics.

Russell was also a pioneer for African-American professional athletes, serving as a key voice and figure during the civil rights era. He played in 963 NBA games and holds career averages of 15.1 ppg and 22.5 rpg and 4.3 apg in 42.3 minutes of playing time.

He never averaged below 18.6 rebounds per game in his career, and did not average double figures in scoring in only his last season as a pro.

He also led the NBA in rebounds per game five times in his career. Russell was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975.


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