Bill Russell receives Arthur Ashe Courage Award at 2019 ESPY Awards

NBA legend Bill Russell was honored with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award during the 2019 ESPY Awards.

The award recognizes those who reflect the spirit, strength and courage of tennis great Arthur Ashe, who was a vocal human rights campaigner for over three decades. Past recipients include Nelson Mandela, Muhammad Ali and NC State coach Jimmy Valvano — who won the inaugural honor in 1993.

Kobe Bryant presented this year’s award.

“I’m humbled to receive the Arthur Ashe Award,” Russell said in a statement. “It is a great honor to be part of a unique group of previous recipients.”

Here’s more from ESPN on the prestigious award:

“The award is inspired by the life that Ashe lived, using his fame and stature to advocate for human rights, although, at the time, those positions may have been unpopular and were often controversial. From speaking out against apartheid in South Africa to revealing to the world his struggle with AIDS, Ashe never backed away from a difficult issue, even though doing so would have been easier. Winners of the Ashe Award strive to carry on Ashe’s legacy in their own lives – – inspired by those who do so each day.”

Russell, an 11-time NBA champion, has been a leader in the civil rights movement since before he entered the NBA in 1956. He was at the March on Washington in 1963 and hired as the first black coach in NBA history in 1966. The five-time NBA MVP was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the highest civilian honor in the United States — in 2011.

> Legends Profile: Bill Russell