NBA legend, former Sonics coach and Mercer Island resident Bill Russell was arrested Wednesday at Sea-Tac International Airport for bringing a gun into a prohibited area, according to a statement from TSA and reported by several news stations Friday.
Russell had a fully loaded .38 caliber Smith & Wesson in a bag during a routine exam of carry-on luggage, according to a TSA spokesperson. Russell was cited by Port of Seattle police on a state charge. He had a permit for the gun and was released. Russell, 79, will be subject to a civil penalty that can range from $3,000 to $7,000.
Firearms, ammunition, firearm parts and realistic replicas of firearms are always prohibited in carry-on baggage. Those items can be transported in checked baggage provided a traveler declares them to the airline during the ticket counter check-in process.
After a spectacular NBA playing career in which he won 11 championships with the Boston Celtics, Russell in 1973 was hired by owner Sam Schulman to be the Sonics coach and general manager. In his second season, the Sonics were 43-39 and reached the playoffs for the first time in a history that began as an expansion team in 1967-68. But he eventually became frustrated with his players’ inability to grasp his team concepts. He left after the 1976-77 season, his fourth.
Two years later under Lenny Wilkens, the Sonics won the NBA title, which remains the only major pro team sports championship in Seattle’s modern history.
Russell, a native of Oakland and a graduate of the University of San Francisco, has remained a Mercer Island resident. An NBA Hall of Famer, he was inducted into the College Hall of Fame in 2006. In February 2011, Russell received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian award, from President Obama in a White House ceremony.
The Medal of Freedom recognizes men and women who have “made an especially meritorious contribution to (1), the security or national interests of the United States, or (2) world peace, or (3) cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”