Mercer Island resident, former Sonics coach and NBA Hall of Famer Bill Russell, 80, was hospitalized Thursday in Incline Village, NV., where he had been giving a speech. Russell became faint during his presentation at the Hyatt Regency Resort and was hospitalized as “a precaution,” according to the Boston Celtics. A team spokesman said Russell “is feeling better” and is expected to return home later Thursday.
According to one witness, Russell was telling a story about former rival Wilt Chamberlain when he began to sway at the podium and then fell backward. Hotel personnel quickly came to Russell’s aid. Russell appeared conscious as he left the stage.
Russell won 11 championship rings in 13 years when he played for the Celtics (1956-69). He won five Most Valuable Player awards, played in 12 All-Star games, and was elected to the Naismith Hall of Fame in 1975.
Russell coached the Seattle SuperSonics from 1973-77, acquiring many of the players, including Dennis Johnson and Jack Sikma, who helped lead the Sonics to the NBA championship in 1979.