The ultimate winner in professional team sports received the ultimate off-court honor – the cover of a Wheaties box. Bill Russell, the two-time NCAA champion, Olympic gold medalist and center piece of 11 NBA titles in 13 seasons with the Boston Celtics, accepted his latest decoration in a not surprisingly selfless manner on Friday in the Grand Ballroom of the MGM Hotel.

One of the greatest leaders in professional sports gave credit to his teammates.

“I know that I was a great player, but I know that I needed my team to be great,” said Russell. “My team was my community, and we were protective of each other and very respectful of each other. There’s only one issue I have with this - that it’s me and doesn’t have my team. And I am no more than my team. “So it’s quite flattering, but realistically it’s an honor that belongs to my team. I’m feeling a little lonesome up here.”

The limited-edition package, which is available nationwide, is the first Wheaties appearance for Russell who is the seventh Celtic to grace the cover along with Red Auerbach, Bob Cousy, John Havlicek, Jo Jo White, Larry Bird and K.C. Jones. Russell was not only selected for his numerous accomplishments -- eight consecutive championships, five NBA MVP Awards, 12 All-Star selections, one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History -- but for his leaderships skills that elevated the Celtics to the greatest run in professional sports.

“Bill Russell has distinguished himself as a basketball icon, not only having become one of the best players ever to have played the game, but universally acknowledged as the best team player to have played the game,” said Dan Stangler, Wheaties marketing. “It’s only fitting that this legendary All-Star joins the Wheaties family at a great venue like NBA All-Star 2007 in Las Vegas.”

Other African-American athletes honored during Black History Month include Muhammad Ali, Hank Aaron, Jackie Robinson, Josh Gibson, Satchell Paige, James “Cool Papa” Bell, Althea Gibson, Arthur Ashe, Walter Payton and Julius “Dr. J” Erving.

Russell not only redefined the sport with his defensive brilliance on the court but revolutionized it off of it as well when he was named the first African-American head coach in professional sports, succeeding Red Auerbach prior to the 1966-67 season. As a player-coach, Russell led the Celtics to two titles in three years before retiring following the 1968-69 season.

“There has not ever been, and never will be, a team that had as much fun as we did,” said Russell. “When I was in the Celtics locker room, I could not go to heaven, because anyplace but there was a step down. That is how much I enjoyed being on that team and being with those guys.”