Former United States President Barack Obama joined many others in celebrating the life of Bill Russell, who passed away Sunday at 88 years old.
Obama, who awarded the former NBA icon the Presidental Medal of Freedom in 2011, honored Russell in a Twitter thread.
"Today, we lost a giant," Obama wrote. "As tall as Bill Russell stood, his legacy rises far higher—both as a player and as a person."
Obama praised Russell's leadership beyond basketball. Along with leading the Boston Celtics to 11 NBA championships, Russell fought against racial inequality and became the first Black head coach of any major American team sport.
"Perhaps more than anyone else, Bill knew what it took to win and what it took to lead," Obama added. "On the court, he was the greatest champion in basketball history. Off of it, he was a civil rights trailblazer—marching with Dr. King and standing with Muhammad Ali."
He sent his condolences on behalf of himself and his wife, Michelle Obama, after discussing the hardships Russell overcame to set a strong example.
"For decades, Bill endured insults and vandalism, but never let it stop him from speaking up for what’s right. I learned so much from the way he played, the way he coached, and the way he lived his life."
When awarding Russell the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Obama said (per CSAN) that he hopes "children will look up at a statue built not only to Bill Russell the player, but Bill Russell the man." A statue was created in his honor near Boston's TD Garden in 2013.
Our hearts go out to Russell's family and friends.