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NBA legend Bill Russell jersey fetches $1.1 million at auction

Published Dec 11, 2021 10:30 am

A jersey worn by Boston Celtics great Bill Russell in the last game of his NBA career fetched $1,116,250 (about P56 million) in an auction of memorabilia collected by the basketball legend and civil rights icon, Hunt Auctions said Friday (Dec. 11 Philippine time).

The Number 6 jersey was worn by Russell in game seven of the 1969 NBA Finals, the final game of his career.

The Celtics beat the Los Angeles Lakers 108-106 on May 5, 1969, at The Forum in Los Angeles as Russell won the 11th and final NBA title of his career.

The jersey, which had been photo-matched to two images taken during the game and to a picture of Russell and coach Red Auerbach sitting in the Celtics' locker room, drew heated bidding from both the United States and abroad, David Hunt, president of Hunt Auctions, said.

Hunt called it an honor to present the auction, which culminated with a live auction at the Celtics' TD Garden in Boston, and said Russell's stature made it no surprise that it generated healthy prices.

Hall of Famers Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal had been among those expressing interest in purchasing items.

"The record setting performance attained at the Bill Russell Collection live auction was astounding, yet not surprising," Hunt said. "To properly convey the significance of Bill Russell as an athlete, a champion of Civil Rights, and a towering figure in the history of American sports is impossible."

Russell had said in a video statement announcing the auction that he would keep "a few pieces" of his extensive memorabilia collection for himself.

Some of the proceeds of the sale went to MENTOR, an organization that provides young people with support through mentoring.

An additional auction-related donation was to be made to Boston Celtics United for Social Justice, which focuses on addressing racial injustice and social inequities in the Greater Boston area.

Russell's gold medal from the 1956 Olympics sold for $587,500 (P29.5 million plus). Russell, then 22, scored a team-leading 14.1 points per game as the United States won all eight of their games in Melbourne by an average 53.5 points per game.

In other highlights, Russell's NBA Championship rings from 1957 and 1969the first and last of his 11 titlessparked "significant interest."

The 1957 ring drew $705,000 (P35.4 million plus), believed to be a record price for any basketball-related championship ring, and the 1969 ring fetched $558,125 (P28 million plus).

The auction also featured a letter from Jackie Robinson, the first Black player in modern Major League Baseball, written after Russell and other Black Celtics players boycotted a 1961 game in Lexington, Kentucky, after they were denied service at a hotel.

The letter, included with a boycott game scrapbook page, brought $94,000 (P4.7 million plus). (AFP)