Mike Woodson paid tribute to Bill Russell following his death on Sunday.

Russell was 88 years old at the time of his passing. On Sunday, Woodson posted a heartfelt message about Russell’s impact on basketball and beyond.

“Bill Russell was the greatest champion of life. His athletic accomplishments are unmatched as one of the greatest players in the history of basketball,” Woodson said. “He was a champion as a collegian, an Olympian and in the NBA. The most important mark he left on the world was his ability to champion people and always fight to make our world better.”

Russell won 11 champions with the Boston Celtics in the NBA and became the first Black head coach in NBA history. After he coached the Celtics, he was the head coach for the Seattle SuperSonics and the Sacramento Kings.

Russell’s legacy in the NBA had a direct impact on Woodson. After Woodson’s collegiate career at Indiana, he went on to play 11 years in the NBA for six teams. When his playing career ended, Woodson became an assistant coach in the NBA. He eventually received an opportunity to be a head coach in the NBA for the Atlanta Hawks from 2004 to 2010. Woodson received another head coaching position with the New York Knicks for more than 2 seasons.

Woodson returned to Indiana in 2021 as the program’s head coach. Russell opened the door for former NBA players to have careers as head coaches.