In 1975, Bill Russell was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame but declined to accept the honor, only saying at the time, “for my own personal reasons I don’t want to be a part of it.” In later years it became clear that Russell was uncomfortable being the first Black player inducted into the Hall. He felt like there were others who came before him that deserved the honor. It wasn’t until 2019 when Chuck Cooper, the first Black player drafted into the NBA and a star for the Celtics, was inducted that Russell relented and accepted his Hall of Fame ring. In 2021, Russell entered the Hall again, this time as a coach.
From the collection of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (photo by Heritage Werks)