The legendary legacy of the NBA, Bill Russell, was honored on Wednesday night at ESPYS 2019.
And it was delivered by a former Laker from Los Angeles.
Kobe Bryant delivered a powerful speech to introduce Russell, the Celtics Hall of Fame and Cultural Icon, winner of this year's Arthur Ashe Courage Award. Bryant began by calling Russell, 11-time NBA champion (in 13 seasons), "the biggest winner of all sports."
But the impact of Bryant's speech was highlighted when he illuminated Russell as a pivot to break down racial barriers at a time that ultimately allowed African-American athletes to flourish. .
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Kobe Bryant, left, and Bill Russell, Arthur Ashe Courage Award, attend the 2019 ESPYs at Microsoft Theater. (Photo: Rich Fury, Getty Images)
"Every generation has the responsibility to teach the next," began Bryant. "One thing I learned about Bill is the way he was inspired by his grandfather (Jake), whose motto was:" A man must draw a line in himself that it will not allow any man to cross. "Bill learned from this and added his own motto:" You do not respect the line, you do not respect me. "More than 50 years later, the slogans of Bill and his grandfather always resonate loudly and are still talking about Bill's beliefs. "
Russell achieved superstar status in the '50s and' 60s and later became the first African-American head coach of the NBA. He became the pivot of the civil rights movement and defended the dignity of the black athlete many times – using his platform to evoke change.
"Bill's dissatisfaction with the injustices of the world has never changed," Bryant said. "His hope for a better future … (…) Bill has opened the path that inspires us all – the next generation – to follow his example."
Russell, 85, did not speak when he won the award, but he was applauded at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.
In a tribute preceding the award, Samuel L. Jackson read in Russell's book "Go Up For Glory" and former President Barack Obama, who awarded Russell the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011, said that his own path to the presidency had been traced by the pioneer Russell.